An Akron, Ohio native now an integral part of the Dirty South, Joseph Sojourner is a communicator, creator, emcee, and writer based in Atlanta.
Joseph currently serves as the Experience Director for Trilith, a community for creatives as a part of Trilith Studios, film site for such blockbuster hits as Ant-Man (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), The Tomorrow War (2021), and The Suicide Squad (2021)
Joseph leads the charge in building a community where makers, thinkers and dreamers feel at home. A place designed by intention, sitting at the corner of comfort and possibility. Where creatives can live, work and find fulfillment in every way.
Joseph and Stuart have an inspiring conversation regarding Joseph’s journey, leadership, how to discover your gifting and grit. This is a great listen!
The tallest skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa, was designed to sway in the wind. Its 206th story, at the very top, bends back and forth up to two meters to “confuse the wind,” as chief structural engineer Bill Baker once said. Most tall buildings are designed to adapt to the sky’s push and pull, perhaps taking a cue from trees, which bend and come back to center again and again. Whether concrete and steel or wood and leaves, these structures bend so that they don’t break. And it is what we humans must do now, too.
Bending is deeply important to you and me as well. Physically, it’s a stretch that awakens the body and expands our edges. It improves our flexibility, agility, and nimbleness. Psychologically, bending is what we’re called to do when we can’t change our circumstances, when we can only change how we react to them. It’s what businesses call “pivoting.” It’s what immigrants have done forever. It’s what many call “adaptability.” And it’s an essential part of resilience.
How much has your world changed in the last few years? How much have we changed? And of those changes we’ve all had to make to varying degrees, what has been reactive versus proactive? Have you have felt that standing tall and strong — holding on to your routines and beliefs — were the only ways to have some semblance of normalcy? Did your life stay the same? Or have you felt the exact opposite: a call to change everything all at once — to quit something, move somewhere, change the status of your relationships, dissolve into a more malleable form to become someone entirely new? Did you change too much?
Adaptability does not prioritize drastic change over fierce rigidity. Adaptability is the conversation within you between stability and change, between continuity and innovation. It is the marriage of your fundamental needs for security and adventure. Adaptability is your ability to bend and come back to center over and over again, increasing your flexibility each time, whether you’re in your daily stretch or the fight of your life. And the more you practice becoming adaptable, the more you can tolerate change and harness its power.
Paul understood adaptability well. He reminded the Corinthian faith community in 2 Corinthians 4 (MSG) that “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives!”
Paul seems to imply that there is an ability all of us can have to continuously uproot but still find a sense of belonging — a special posture of absorbing wobbles to hold strong — by re-designing the strongest structures in your life so that they can sway when the wind picks up.
So do some deep work with these questions:
- When was the last time you changed your mind?
- What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
- When was the last time you took a big risk?
- What is a part of yourself you need to break up with?
- What experience of adversity made you stronger?
- What resources do you draw from family and community in hard times?
Let’s discuss this in the Circle…
In this Episode’s Version, INFLUNSR. asked you to read an excerpt from the article We’re Always Famous by Chris Hayes.
So total is the public presence of our private lives that even those whose jobs depend on total privacy cannot escape its reach. The open-source intelligence outfit Bellingcat has used this fact to track down a wide array of global malefactors, including the two Russian agents who appear to have poisoned a Russian defector in the U.K., Sergei Skripal, with a nerve agent, in 2018. Bellingcat was able to identify both men through data it purchased on the gray market, obtaining their aliases and photos of each. But the breakthrough came when it was discovered that one suspect had attended the wedding of the daughter of their G.R.U. unit’s commander. In a video—posted on Instagram, of course—the commander walks his daughter down the aisle on a lovely dock, to the sounds of a bossa nova cover of Every Breath You Take.
The young couple didn’t just post clips of their wedding (which was gorgeous, by the way) to Instagram. They also uploaded a highly stylized video, set to upbeat music, that shows them in bathrobes getting ready for the ceremony as well as the big moments of the wedding itself. To establish the suspect’s attendance at the ceremony, Bellingcat scanned other posted snapshots of the wedding and compared them with images in the video. Sure enough, the identity of the man in question, Anatoliy Chepiga, matched that of the alias he’d used to travel to the U.K. for the attempted murder.
Bellingcat published its findings, and, presumably, a whole host of Russian military and intelligence officials — maybe all the way up the chain to Vladimir Putin — realized that the utterly innocuous social media posts of a happy young couple had tripped off the identification of someone indicted for attempted murder and wanted by the British authorities.
This is an extreme example of a common phenomenon. Someone happens upon a social-media artifact of a person with a tiny number of followers and sends it shooting like a firework into the Internet, where it very briefly burns white-hot in infamy. There are some who find the sudden attention thrilling and addictive: this will be their first taste of a peculiar experience they then crave and chase. And there are others, like our newlyweds, who very much do not want the attention. They belatedly try to delete the post or make it “private,” but by then it’s too late for privacy. A message they intended for friends and family, people they have relationships with, ended up in the hands of strangers, people who don’t know them at all.
We’ve all become the fennec fox.
(An excerpt from On the Internet, We’re Always Famous by Chris Hayes)
Chris Hayes makes a very rattling observation in this article from The New Yorker:
“This, perhaps, is the most obviously pernicious part of the expansion of celebrity: ever since there have been famous people, there have been people driven mad by fame. In the modern era, it’s a cliché: the rock star, comedian, or starlet who succumbs to addiction, alienation, depression, and self-destruction under the glare of the spotlight. Being known by strangers, and, even more dangerously, seeking their approval, is an existential trap. And right now, the condition of contemporary life is to shepherd entire generations into this spiritual quicksand.”
“Spiritual quicksand” is quite the word image.
Contrast this with what Paul, on the other hand, wrote the faith community in first century northern Greece, challenging them with these words:
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.
(1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT)
What does it mean in today’s teenage culture to “live a quiet life, minding your own business…?” How do you as a next generation leader balance a world of such a never-ending thirst for notoriety and attention with what Paul says will earn you influence with your peers?
Let’s dive into this in the Circle…
We asked you to watch the epic Marvel movie Avengers: End Game. After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins due to the efforts of the Mad Titan, Thanos. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers must assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’s actions and undo the chaos to the universe, no matter what consequences may be in store, and no matter who they face…
After Ragnarok, Asgard was gone. After Thanos in Infinity War, we didn’t know if any Asgardians were left alive. In Endgame we see that some Asgardians have in fact survived and they are rebuilding. But Thor, their rightful leader, is no where to be found. The Asgardians still looked to Thor for leadership because he was their King, but he was no longer fulfilling that role. He had abandoned his responsibilities and was holed up playing Fortnite, intimidating NoobMaster69 and other 12 year olds online. Gaea even challenged a massively overweight Thor to “Go be the man you were meant to be… and eat a salad.”
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul declares, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Is this a blind mandate for loyal follower-ship? Perhaps we too often treat this verse as such. In fact, this declaration was highly conditional. Consider that the Greek word for as is used interchangeably with “to the same degree that…” So the declaration should probably read “follow me to the same degree that I follow Christ.” And with it, “if I ever stop following Christ, don’t you dare follow me.” This isn’t to invite intense scrutiny into your or anyone else’s every move. It is to say, however, that as you follow and lead, continue to look up and see Jesus ahead of you.
Why do you think positional power only gets you so far? What does it mean that effective, transformational leadership happens with people? Real leadership is hard work. With or without a title your actions determine whether you are a leader.
What conflict(s) rises in you after watching the movie, reading 1 Corinthians 11:1, and then considering the reality that you can become like Thor and lean on positional and not relational leverage in your spheres of influence?
Let’s discuss this in the Circle…
We asked you to read the Relevant Magazine article Don’t Just Serve the Poor.
Anna Glenn writes, “Serve” is one of the most used Christian words. Serve, servant, service, or any of their derivatives, are used in the Bible over 1,100 times. It’s what we are called as Christians to do: serve God, serve the Church, serve each other and serve the poor. But the truth is I don’t want to “serve” the poor anymore, and neither should you.
This is an interesting and counter thought: Glenn states that “More often what is needed is development rather than charity. Inappropriately giving charity in the place of development, whether done intentionally or unintentionally, only serves to bolster our savior complexes by further strengthening the dependency cycle between the economically wealthy and poor; it pities rather than respects; and it fails to recognize God and to celebrate the God-given potential and value of those we are “serving.”There comes a time for charity to stop and development to begin. Jesus served through charity, but He also served through development and we should, too.”
How do you think this idea changes your perspective of serving? Where and how are there places within your sphere of influence where you need to stop giving and start developing?
Let’s discuss this in the Circle…
We asked you to read the Fast Company article The Jefferson Monument will be under 4 feet of water by 2040. Here’s how to redesign the National Mall.
Five prominent landscape architecture firms reimagine the Washington DC Mall’s Tidal Basin. One proposal? Let the monuments flood to show the consequences of inaction.
Paul’s letter to the first century faith community in Rome in Romans 1 read this way: “This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities — God’s eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. (CEB)
Franciscan monk Richard Rohr said, “Perhaps once we can see God in the planet and plants and animals, we might learn to see God in our neighbors. And then we might learn to love the world.” Reverence is deep respect. The Creator is evident in creation, which surrounds you and me. We can see it and experience it with our senses. You and I are part of it. Humility is acknowledging that I am not separate from creation; I am a part of a web of life. And this mutual dependence is a gift. Life is a gift.
INFLUNSR. defines excellence as choosing to create a better future by going the extra mile. This is a deeply spiritual principle. As a leader who follows Jesus, how should we balance creativity exhibited with the Washington Mall monuments and the real-world reality that the National Mall Tidal Basin — where cherry trees line the water’s edge amid some of the country’s most famous monuments — sea-level rise and riverine flooding threaten not just tree roots but a landscape inextricably tied to the history of the United States?
Time to dive into this in the Circle…
We asked you to read the Christianity Today article ‘What I Learned From Gen Z’s Faithfulness During the Pandemic by Tom Lin.
Recent reports of declining religious engagement paint a sad picture about the future of the church in the United States. But from Tom Lin’s perspective leading InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, younger Christians may offer us a road map for hope, particularly for those from earlier generations.
Tom Lin writes, “Traditionally, we think of discipleship as generationally top down — one generation passing what it’s learned to a younger generation. But discipleship can also be bottom up. Older generations, in humility, can take note of what younger people are learning and receive it, allowing it to reveal gaps in their own discipleship. No generation is exempt from needing to grow in resilience. As we’re tested together, both now and in the future, we can praise God for the ways that the Spirit is filling gaps in our maturity, no matter which generation is the teacher.”
How can you as a next generation leader worth following lead up as it relates to resilience in the age of pandemic with generations before you? Even more, are you leading up? Have you considered the generation before you as your sphere of influence?
Let’s discuss this in the Circle…
We asked you to read the GQ article Why Simply Hustling Harder Won’t Help You With the Big Problems in Life.
A conversation with author and self-help historian Kate Bowler about how productivity culture is a lot like a religion.
When asked if she thinks assumptive stories about self-help have been precipitated by the retreat of organized religion, Kate Bowler responded “I just don’t think that what we think of as secular is secular at all. We’re just renaming our religious beliefs as something else. In this case, we’re just saying, “My gospel tells me that I should be tireless, my gospel tells me that I should be self-mastering, my gospel tells me that my thoughts are the most important thing about me.” Our economy sped up, our economy bottomed out, and here we are, very confused about whether we’re failing or not. I wouldn’t describe it so much as a vacuum as a renaming. I always use “secular” in these really sarcastic quotes, but it’s really pretty deeply religious in its underpinning.”
Big question: do you vacillate between secular and “Christian” thinking instead of seeing everything as deeply spiritual? How does Kate’s perspective regarding the gospel of hustle change you, if at all? How do you personally gauge if you are failing or not as a Jesus follower and next generation leader?
Let’s dive into this in the Circle…
INFLUNSR’s mission is to fuel the next generation of leaders worth following and to help students learn how to think, not what to think. Any articles posted and questions asked are intended for that sole purpose.