The Story

Workaholic is a word that has been used to describe me, but I would say “performance addict” was probably more accurate. As the son of a world-class shooter (whose legacy included 24 national championships and numerous medals in world class competition), I chose to listen to my dad’s sports psychologist at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, whose cassette tapes about “how we think” played on my headset while mowing the lawn at age nine, which I thought, at the time, aptly accompanied my “Winners make it happen and losers let it happen” poster on my bedroom wall. I was on the fast track from the beginning. But about the same time I was listening to my dad’s tapes I also decided to get baptized. I went to church every Sunday morning with my family but church seemed to be disconnected from the rest of my life. Even at the ripe old age of 12 I wondered how my thoughts had anything to do with God.

During my freshman year of college, I remember thinking about what career path to take and considered going into the ministry, and I asked my father what he thought. His advice was, “Work hard and make a lot of money. Then people will listen to you.” So I did. Age 21, I graduated from a Christian liberal arts college. Swimming in student loan debt, I landed a job with one of the world’s premier consulting firms, Deloitte & Touche. At 24 I started my own business; at 25 I had my first six-figure income and by 30 was a millionaire after growing the business to one of the top 5 in the state of Indiana. The more I succeeded, the harder I worked. “Winners make it happen…” I was determined to be in the winner’s group, and losers who let life happen to them were my least favorite people.

I was not quite 30 when “it” happened. I’m not sure what “it” is or was, but I call it my own personal beautiful train wreck. My personal physician thought it had to do with my “emotions”. I told him I didn’t think I had any of “those” things. Regardless, the “it” manifested itself in all kinds of physical issues. Hives, swelling, numbness, waking up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat…and why couldn’t I stop crying behind my closed office doors. Of course the first person I turned to was my wife…who quickly explained that she didn’t like being around me anymore. Next. Now I turned back to my doctor who gave me some pills that “could be addictive” so “be careful”. He also mentioned that some counseling might be helpful.

My pastor at the time agreed to meet with me. His first question was, “where is God working in your life?” I told him I didn’t know. Of course he followed up with, “So what’s that tell you about your spiritual life if you don’t know where God is?” He was correct. He also quickly identified me as having the spiritual gift of leadership. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I remember listening to a speech given by Bill Hybells introducing me to a God who gifts certain people with a Holy Spirit endowed gift of leadership. You don’t earn it, you don’t work for it…it’s simply a gift. I wept again…but for a different reason. All the worldly success would have been impossible without this gift. Hmm…my leadership performance was never really mine…it was a gift? Maybe life wasn’t all about me after all. Why did this realization comfort me?

A little confused and extremely determined I procured a very talented executive coach. He was a Christian believer who continued pointing me towards God’s Truth, which I absorbed like desert sand in a rainstorm. As an insatiable learner earnestly seeking physical, emotional and spiritual health, I began to see connections between my life and God’s Truth. When I realized my value and worth doesn’t come from my performance, my anxiety started to subside. This Truth started freeing me from the tyranny of my anxiety. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know HOW to get Truth inside my life (not realizing He was already there) and HOW to communicate Truth to others.

During the next 10 years or so, I learned a lot, mostly from dead guys (Oswald Chambers, Watchman Nee, C.S. Lewis), and some more contemporary ones (Robert McGee, David Burns, MD, and M. Scott Peck, MD). Not all are Christians, and I didn’t agree with everything even the Christians believed, but each one took me deeper into the journey that brought me life. The parts that resonated in my life are those that contain the “big T” Truths of scripture…and I have learned to apply the Truth of God to continue to be transformed by the Word.

Now my telephone, office and email inbox continually fill up with others asking the same questions I had: “So what?” And most of all, “HOW?” Many of these people are desperate, and some are simply seeking. Often, pastors who are rejected by their churches, lifelong believers who can no longer “keep the faith,” people who have never been to church but down deep desire Truth, individuals who cannot find or even identify “love,” decimated marriages, children of those marriages, people in financial bondage from poverty to wealth, drug addicts (neat ones and messy ones), abused women, church elders, homosexuals, congressmen, professional athletes, sports figures and more. My mission is simple. Go! Make disciples…transform lives by pointing them to God and connecting them with others.


-Derek Wilder