The Fear of Becoming Irrelevant

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As many of you know, I am a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and recently the NFL hosted their annual draft. There is something about its spectacle and its optimism that just makes me feel good. Every team drafts players that they hope will lead them to make the playoffs if not winning the Super Bowl.

Round after round, the best collegiate players are chosen by professional teams, in rather complicated order. Some get traded up, some down, some get exchanged, it’s complex stuff. Over the three days of the draft, one round of players after another, the draft winds and grinds away. By the final round, which is round 7, most of the luster has worn off. Except for the very last man standing. The last player to get picked, year-in and year-out, is called “Mr. Irrelevant.” It’s a pretty harsh descriptor, but there it is, Mr. Irrelevant.


Better With Age

In September this year, I will turn 20 for the third time. Unlike some people, I love my age. I am old enough to know better, young enough to care, and experienced enough to do it right. However, I recently was asked if I have ever been fearful of running out of energy. As part of the same conversation, I was also asked if I ever thought about becoming irrelevant as a speaker and author.

Even as I am writing this blog it has caused me to think about eventually running out of things to write about. As I am writing a new book, I have wondered, “What more can I say after this book is released? What if this book is it? What if, after this one, I’m not relevant anymore?”

But this whole “irrelevance” thing is more than books, blogs, and speaking. It’s my children, too. They all grew up so fast and don’t need me like they used to. So in total disclosure and transparency, that’s been the fear inside of me lately, the fear of becoming irrelevant, of having nothing to offer anymore. It’s not always rational, but it’s a real fear.

The fear of becoming irrelevant is self-imposed anxiety, an irrational one as soon as you think of your children and the way they need you. Once they’ve had children of their own and see your ideas and methods as old-fashioned and outdated, you’re still relevant to them. But you don’t feel relevant.


King James Version Mother

Since last September, my mother has endured the loss of her husband, only remaining sibling, and difficult health problems that have slowed her down considerably. In talking with her and watching her day-to-day activities, I am concerned she has run out of strength, ambition, purpose, and relevance. For some people reading this you just said, “Did Steve Gilliland just admit his mother, who has read and studied the Bible for years, forget Hebrews 12:1? You know the verse that says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Let me make one thing entirely clear. My mother has never said any of those things; it’s merely an observation.

As cliché as this sounds, I emphatically told my mother, you are still alive, so you are needed here. Maybe not if you’re my brother and me, but there is someone out there who does need you, and they need you right now, and that person is you. You need you!

When people have had to survive without our mothers, husbands, and siblings, it is natural to go through a period of not feeling wanted or like you matter. So you have to find that extra dose of strength for yourself to carry on and have a purpose. No one goes through extraordinary circumstances to live an ordinary life. Things are not as hopeless as they appear. I know it seems like it now, but once you build your confidence based off of your renewed view of you, then you will attract people who share the same sentiments about you.


At The End of The Day

This day, this very day, you can choose to go from believing you are irrelevant to knowing you are relevant. How you got here is not essential but where you can go is everything. Everything is raw material. Everything is usable. Everything is relevant. Let no one define you because they feel inadequate. You are powerful. You are relevant. Believe it. Make today a new beginning, the first day of the rest of your life. I don’t know where you’re at today. Maybe you fear irrelevance too. Maybe you feel purposeless. Maybe life feels tedious and tiring, like you’re spinning your wheels at the office, in your marriage, with your kids, in that relationship that has been super-hard. Maybe you fear that your words, your influence, your guidance, your wisdom don’t matter much anymore. Don’t give up. You haven’t “run out.”

Even when you’re down, you are not defeated. Every day is a new day. This is the first day of the rest of your life. At the end of the day, who you are, is totally and completely up to you.

Come on now, let’s live it!



For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland and the Gilliland Foundation, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.