Chris Janson: Prayer is everything to me. Prayer is, like, the only thing that I have to lean on besides my wife and kids. Right? And they’re just human, so you can only lean on them so much, but you can lean on God all the way. You can give everything to the Lord. That’s what it says in the Bible. So you have to believe it, right?
I figure it’s really simple. We only have a few instruction guides of what to follow, so either do it or don’t, it’s really simple. You either lay it all over, or you just give a little tiptoe. And that’s okay if you just give a tiptoe, if that’s comfortable where you’re at. But man, when you give it all over, it’s unbelievable.
The Great Reset: Getting Back to What Matters Most with Chris Janson & Kelly Janson and Steve White – Episode #292
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Uncertain times can cause us to reflect about and reassess what really matters to us. When we take that time to get quiet, pray, and really ask ourselves why we’ve been put on the earth to begin with, we can begin to feel a sense of purpose that directs our next move. And when we’re moving in the direction of our purpose, we begin to connect to our impact in the world and feel the satisfaction of knowing we can make a difference.
Our guests this week have come to their sense of purpose and direction through prayer, understanding their strengths and passions, and events that made them pause and look within themselves toward what matters most to them. We’re speaking with country music singer and songwriter Chris Janson and his wife Kelly and author and President, Special Counsel to CEO [Comcast], Steve White.
Let’s hear first from Chris and Kelly.
Chris Janson: I’m Chris Janson, father, husband, Christian, country music singer, and songwriter. And this is my wife Kelly.
Music has been a really big part of the fabric of my life since I was probably nine years old. That’s when I picked up the guitar for the first time, and I learned drums, guitar, bass, and piano all in one week. And I’m self-taught. I don’t take lessons. I can’t read music. I have no idea about musical theory. I can’t read notes. I can just hear it and do it. And it’s been that way since I was nine years old.
Chris Takes on Nashville and Meets His Wife, Kelly
I never felt like I ever struggled in Nashville. I mean, I moved to town on a Thursday and got a gig because I asked for one. I moved to town in 2006, right out of high school. I was living in my car, and I just drove straight down from southern Missouri. I went to lower Broadway first: the honky tonks, Tootsie’s. Nobody was playing traditional country music in the mid-2000s and really still don’t down there.
I came into town playing not only southern gospel, but Jerry Lee Lewis and Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, and Hank Jr. and just playing those kinds of things. I was not a songwriter yet, so I walked in and played “Folsom Prison” and that’s how I got my gig.
But in that thirteen, fourteen years, I mean physically, emotionally, mentally, I wasn’t right. You know, I didn’t have an awesome wife, I didn’t have awesome kids, I didn’t have the right record deal at the time. I think that God puts certain situations in your life, to be honest with you, that really mold you. And I think sometimes you have to live in those spaces and almost kind of be miserable sometimes before you really get to see the clarity at the end of the tunnel.
“I think that God puts certain situations in your life, to be honest with you, that really mold you. And I think sometimes you have to live in those spaces and almost kind of be miserable sometimes before you really get to see the clarity at the end of the tunnel.” – Chris Janson
I was hanging out with my friends in a pool hall in Nashville called Melrose Billiards. It’s an underground pool hall, and they had songwriter nights there. I wasn’t playing at songwriter night, but I was just out and about with some music people. And she [Kelly] was working at a record label at the time. I didn’t know her at all. I’d never seen her before and didn’t know she worked for a record label. She came walking down the stairs and she was there to scout, to listen to songs, right? Talent scout, if you will, for songs.
Kelly Janson: And I knew who he [Chris] was. I tried to sign him. I saw him perform early on and I was like, Oh my goodness. This man has it. I went back and told my label people, I was like, “I don’t know what I saw, but I know I saw talent, like, the most unbelievable performance I’ve ever seen. I have to sign this artist.”
Chris: When I mentioned God’s timing earlier, we didn’t know each other. And she, ironically over the next three years, had started coming to some of my showcases because I was just trying to get a record. I was really just trying to be famous, you know, and get a record deal and just get it going. And she would come out from the label and watch my shows. I would just see her every now and again. And I was like, Oh, man. I was really just enthralled with her and didn’t even really know her. I didn’t want a record deal. I did not want to write songs. I had one thing on my agenda and that was to marry this woman. That’s it.
Kelly: I had no idea. God had a huge hand in all of it…
Chris: Big time.
Kelly: …like a big hand in all of it, because I was a single mom. I was raising two children. Chris’s heart was way like nothing else you could even imagine, like, huge. And I remember saying to him, “Well, I have kids.” He’s like, “Great, that’s a bonus.” And later, when he decided to ask me to marry him, he literally asked both my children first and took them with him to get the ring. And then they all proposed to me together six months after we’d started dating.
Putting God at the Center of Marriage and Family
Kelly: This book, Jesus Calling—this exact one, actually—you can tell, we’ve definitely used it. After he started his record deal right after we got married, he was at a really weird spot. Sometimes record deals and the business is harder than it looks. You think, Oh, it’s just music, but there’s a lot that goes into it, and there’s a lot of imaging and things that they do. Anyway, he was miserable, to say the least.
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Kelly: And he would call me from the road, and literally I would read this to him in the mornings before he went out to do what he was doing. And I think it brought him a lot of peace, right?
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Kelly: That was part of our first six months of dating.
Chris: That’s how I personally [saw] a side of Kelly—I’d never even heard about Jesus Calling—is because she was reading it to me. And since 2001, I’ve been a Christian, or an actual believer, that is. Before that, it was so wishy-washy that I didn’t even know what to believe, honestly. Actually, Christ found me on April 13th, 2001 in Shelbyville, Tennessee, at First Baptist Church. But, yeah, I’ve been a believer ever since.
When you become a believer and you’re a young guy or a young girl, whatever, you wander through losing faith and all that. And I certainly had many times. But when I met Kelly, she was super strong in faith, and I was like, Awesome, she gets it.
And her kids, the greatest part was Graham and Shell, my older two kids. They are just incredible kids. So honestly that was a big part of our journey too, especially with this book in particular, because I walked into a house that was already home. It was already very well structured the way that it should be, you know what I mean?
Kelly: But that’s the way we knew how to do it.
Chris: Heck, yeah. It was just great.
Kelly: Life’s never perfect, so…
Chris: It’s just great. And there’s a funny thing, it’s like the more you have to tell somebody something, probably the less you are. And Kelly never really had to tell me she was a Christian. She just walked it, and she talked it. And really, through this book, she professed it over me, which was the great thing, because in my opinion, this book is not preachy. It’s actually written by a human.
Kelly: It comforts you.
Chris: Yeah, it does. But it’s also just written from a human perspective, which is why I think we both like it so much, because I don’t like to be preached to at all. And I’m a songwriter, so I connect with something like this. I think that’s why she does, too. And the cool part about it was she got this book as a gift…
Kelly: From Ree Guyer!
Chris: Ree Guyer, a music publisher in town. She’s been in the business for years and just a super solid woman and a good friend of ours still to this day. But, man, it was just a neat thing because…
Kelly: …she gifted it to me one day in her office because we would listen to songs. She would play songs to me because that was my job. And you meet people through your work. And, you know, she was just another wonderful, I guess you’d say, angel that came into my life that had good knowledge. She was a godly woman, someone that I could look up to, and she would give you strength when you needed it. And right there in her office, she handed me this and that was it.
Chris: Yeah, and I’m not a person who praises books or things, but I will say that because of this book in particular and her reading it to me while I was on the road, it gave me a little bit of peace.
Faith Through the Fire
Kelly: He has a songwriter’s room downstairs. And in the middle of the night, we had the alarm on, we felt extremely safe. In the middle of the night, I heard just this little faint like beep, beep, beep. And I’m thinking, Oh, my goodness, is there a toy in the toy box that’s beeping?
Chris: You actually asked me, “Did you leave the dishwasher open?”
Kelly: I’m like, “Why is the dishwasher beeping?” Because it sounded almost like the dishwasher when it’s done. And so I’m like, “Would you get up and come in there with me because I’m a scaredy-cat?”
And he walks in there with me and we could barely hear it, so I’m like, That’s weird. And it wasn’t the dishwasher. And he opened the door to the downstairs and said, “Oh, there’s a fire! Oh, my gosh, there’s smoke!”
And right when he opened it, everything, literally the whole room, if we had not . . . God woke me up, because I don’t hear very well anyway. Like, I’ve ruined my ears with music over the years.
Chris: Truly woke her up, like, for real.
Kelly: And the house was on fire right below where our children were sleeping and where we were sleeping. So our king-sized bed, the ceiling fan below was already melting from the flame, and our bed would have been the next thing to fall right through into the fire. So you have all the square footage and literally, the one place was the fire right under our bed.
The kids and I, obviously, all called 911 then the fire department came. We ran outside. I got the kids in the car and ran down so they could get in. And Chris literally ran to the pool and started getting buckets of water, and he ran against our will. We begged him not to, but he’s that man, and he’s not scared of anything. He ran in and threw it on the fire and put it out. But one more minute, if God had not woken me up, we would probably not have survived. And the one thing that did survive downstairs in that room is our Jesus Calling book.
Chris: It did survive, so that was pretty cool. It’s like an awesome random act of God.
The Power of Prayer
Kelly: I think through our family, it gives us all peace knowing that God is always there and you can talk to Him, no matter where you are. It gives confidence. It gives peace.
”I think through our family, it gives us all peace knowing that God is always there and you can talk to Him no matter where you are. It gives confidence. It gives peace.” – Kelly Janson
The power of prayer—I mean, we do it before our kids get out of the car in the mornings. We hold their hands and we pray. It might be very quick.
Chris: She helped me with that, to be really clear, because when we first got together and still now, a lot of times over the last eleven years, I’ll be like, “Do you think God’s got it?” In reference to whatever it may be: music, singles, it doesn’t matter what it is. “Do you think God’s got it?” She’s like, “Are you crazy? Of course!” And it’s so true.
I saw God when our children were born. I saw God when we got married. I saw God when I was sleeping in the back of a car. I mean, I’ve seen Him in so many things. I see Him all around me. And it’s such a powerful thing that that’s where it comes from. I mean, how could you deny it?
“I saw God when our children were born. I saw God when we got married. I saw God when I was sleeping in the back of a car. I see Him all around me.” – Chris Janson
One of the things that I pray about a lot is that God opens the doors, that God leads the ship, that we’re not really leading it, and that we remember that and we just let Him control it. Whatever He has is the best interest for us, and that’s great. He’s never let us down yet. So I have to believe in that—and I do believe in that. I don’t doubt that.
Narrator: To learn more about Chris and Kelly, and to check out Chris’ latest music, please visit www.chrisjanson.com.
Jesus Listens, now available on audiobook!
Jesus Listens is the new prayer devotional book from Sarah Young helping people everywhere deepen their relationship to God through prayer. Now you can hear these daily prayers with the brand-new Jesus Listens audiobook
The Jesus Listens audiobook contains daily, short, heartfelt prayers and is the perfect way to connect with God on a daily basis that fits your busy schedule. You can listen from anywhere –during a morning commute, an afternoon walk, or as part of your regular meditation and reflection time.
Narrator: Steve White grew up under the influence of his mother’s strong faith and work ethic. Through her perseverance, Steve became the first in his family to pursue a college education at Indiana University. Echoing her positive attitude and ability to get better in his own life, Steve carved out success in the fields of sales, marketing, and management, ultimately being named the President of Comcast’s West Division, leading over 30,000 employees and driving revenue of nearly $18 billion. Now, as President, special counsel to the CEO, Steve has written a book called Uncompromising: How an Unwavering Commitment to Your Why Leads to an Impactful Life and a Lasting Legacy, where he shares what he’s learned over the years and pays tribute to the people who helped him along the way to find his purpose, motivation, and his “why” in life.
Steve White: I’m Steve White. Through faith, through focus, through commitment, and through family, I was able to enjoy and realize the American Dream.
Seeing Business as a Pulpit
I’ve tried to build my life into three buckets: family, giving back, and then staying intellectually stimulated with business. So I serve on three public boards: Hormel, W.W. Granger, and Shaw Communications, along with the Comcast work. I feel that I’ve got the business stuff going, and I’m consulting and helping a few folks. Then, giving back, I serve on a board called New Leaders, where we focus on developing public school principals.
My wife is a minister. She often goes into prisons. On Sundays, she stepped away a little bit with our son being born. But she now leads Moms In Prayer, which is a national organization, and she leads it for my son’s school for a bunch of moms. And so she does that, and I have a nine-year-old, so that means I’m driving to a lot of baseball practice, basketball practice, supporting—my wife has moms come over every Monday for the Moms In Prayer. So I feel that I’ve got a good balance there.
But the mission does not change as it relates to making an impact, because I remember my pastor telling me, “Steve, my pulpit just happens to be here at the church. But your pulpit is business. And while you don’t have to go do daily Bible studies, the way you lead, the way you handle yourself, the joy you display, that’s your pulpit and so treat it as such.” It’s amazing how it draws others to you because they’re looking for guidance and support. And when you can do it through your actions, that’s even better.
“The way you lead, the way you handle yourself, the joy you display, that’s your pulpit.” – Steve White
Your Circumstances Shouldn’t Impact Your Ability to Dream
I was blessed to start helping my mother clean motel rooms. When she left my father, we moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, from Florida, and she was cleaning motel rooms. And you get to see and learn a lot about people when you’re at the bottom of the rung cleaning motel rooms. And certainly, my mother’s skill set was much greater than cleaning motel rooms. But she approached a job with an aggressiveness around work ethic, with the right attitude. No matter how dirty that room was, she always approached it with enthusiasm and a level of commitment to excellence, recognizing that you should never allow your circumstances or your environment to impact your ability to dream.
“You should never allow your circumstances or your environment to impact your ability to dream.” – Steve White
When my mother made the difficult decision to leave my father—and must I tell you that was not a popular decision with me as the oldest of four boys because I love my dad—but she made the difficult decision to go a different direction. And I remember family members may be not really understanding what they were saying, saying, “Those kids are not going to amount to anything. If you leave, you’re setting them up for failure in life.” And as a ten-year-old, you don’t really understand what’s not positive, and you don’t realize how much it’s impacting you. And so early on in my life, going through high school and college and early in my career, I was trying to prove something to someone else that I am worthy, that I was a success. I did make things happen. But guess what? That is short lived. I started learning to change my motivation.
When you start to dream for a better life and you see what others have and maybe what you don’t have, it gives you a taste of, What are the possibilities? And the more you demonstrate an interest in being better, the more you demonstrate that you want your light to shine brighter. What I found was more people were attracted to me to give me that hand up, to give me that opportunity. And so when you provide real opportunity to people, it’s amazing what they will strive for and what they will accomplish. You don’t go from the housing projects of Indianapolis, you don’t go from cleaning motel rooms to one of the top positions in one of the top companies in America at Comcast without a lot of people giving you a hand up.
“The more you demonstrate an interest in being better, the more you demonstrate that you want your light to shine brighter.” – Steve White
Identifying Your Motivation
You never can stop learning. I’ll share a short story with you.
My stepfather, who’s no longer with us, was eighty-nine years old when he passed away four years ago. But I remember him coming into our lives, and at seventy-five, he was taking Spanish lessons. Who does that? But this desire that if I have the skills, the potential, I’m still sharp mentally at seventy-five. Why not? And so those are the lessons that have been imparted upon me through my life that fuel this journey of a less lived life as a learning lab. It’s one of those things that you never know.
So one of my favorite quotes is Theodore Roosevelt, our sixteenth president, and he has this quote called “the man in the arena.” And the gist of the quote is that people we should admire are the men and women who are in the arena—whether they win or lose, whether they’re successful or not. They’re marred by dust, they’ve got blood on their shirt, they’ve got a bloody eye because they’re in the arena, making it happen. And great things cannot happen unless you’re in the arena. So learning is being in the arena because you never know what can happen.
“Great things cannot happen unless you’re in the arena. So learning is being in the arena because you never know what can happen.” – Steve White
There are only two things, ultimately, you can really control, and that’s your attitude and effort. How do I continue to get better at that, particularly from a work ethic standpoint? How do I not put in more hours, but how do I get smarter about the investment of hours? How do I prepare my attitude in a way that is positive and uplifting, not looking through rose-colored glasses, but is positive and uplifting? Because I think it’s very difficult to try to improve many, many things. I believe the focus is to find three or four things and really get better at those three or four things, and you will find that that will carry you through a lot of difficult situations.
And so as I progressed in my career, I got smarter about my attitude. I got smarter about my work ethic. I got smarter about who I selected to put on my team because that impacted my attitude. If I worked around smart people, energetic people, it actually improved my attitude. So I started thinking about what I could do to get better in those areas. And that’s what propelled me to make progress throughout my career.
There’s a song and it goes like this: “You die twice in life: you die the day they put you in the ground, and you die the second time, the last time someone mentions your name.” What a life when, long after you’re gone, people are still mentioning your name in a positive light. It’s a life well lived because no one remembers how much money you have. No one really remembers how big your house was. No one really remembers how many awards you got. What they do remember [is] did you change my life? Did you impact my life? That’s what people remember.
“No one really remembers how big your house was. No one really remembers how many awards you got. What they do remember [is] did you change my life? Did you impact my life? That’s what people remember.” – Steve White
Resetting and Reflecting to Find Our Purpose
We all have a purpose. We’re all here on this earth for a reason. And so the more you can get quiet and reflect, it will help you start to identify your purpose and “why.”
For example, in corporate America, [we’re going through something] called “The Great Resignation.” I call it something else. I call it “The Great Reset.” I think people are now at a very vulnerable stage in their life, and they’re trying to figure out what makes them happy. What is their purpose? How can they live a life that is fulfilling? And as they ask themselves that question, they’re making conscious decisions that I don’t want to work for this company or I don’t want to work for that person or I don’t want to be here. And that’s what I call the “great reset.”
But the way I coach people and try to identify their purpose and “why,” I start saying, “Let’s do an inventory. What are you passionate about? I mean, really, really passionate about?” And then let’s take that list and “What do you think you’re really good at?” I like to golf. I’m passionate about it. But if I say, “Am I really good at it?” I’m okay, but I’m really not great at it. Then the third question, “Would you do it for free?” Now, if you can start to piece the answer to those three questions: What are you passionate about? What are you good at? Be honest with yourself. Get feedback if you need to. And then what would you do for free? Now you start to get closer to your purpose and your “why.”
“We all have a purpose. We’re all here on this earth for a reason. And so the more you can get quiet and reflect, it will help you start to identify your purpose and ‘why.’” – Steve White
Now you’re starting to focus in on your purpose and why. And then when you start to answer those questions, you reflect on it. You pray on it. You spend time with yourself, talk to others that you trust. That’s why it’s so important to spend time with yourself, really thinking about what your purpose is and why you are on this earth. Because now it has a framework for decision-making as you go forward.
Morning is my time to get up early, to reflect, to pray. That’s how I stay in touch with me and what opportunities are coming my way. Because I get really quiet. I have a special place in our house that I go to and I will just be quiet and reflect and think and pray, which allows me not to miss those future opportunities.
You designed me to live in union with You. I’m thankful that this union does not negate who I am. On the contrary, it makes me more fully myself. I’ve discovered that when I try to live independently of You—even for short periods of time—I experience emptiness and dissatisfaction. But when I walk in the Light of Your Presence, You bless me with deep, satisfying Joy. I delight in praising You—exulting in Your righteousness.
Help me to find fulfillment in living close to You, yielding to Your purposes for me. Sometimes You lead me along paths that feel alien to me. At such times I need to cling to You— trusting that You know what You’re doing. When I follow You wholeheartedly, I can discover facets of myself that were previously hidden.
You know me intimately—far better than I know myself. In union with You, I am complete. In closeness to You, I am transformed more and more into the one You created me to be.
In Your beautiful, righteous Name,
Identifying Decisions That Matter
One of the things I’ll share with you in my life, there are only twelve decisions that really matter. I actually went through one day and thought about my life and said, “What are the decisions that really, truly matter that you know is so important that you get right?” Because most decisions, we make mistakes and we can rebound from them and we move on. Sometimes we take a bad job that we don’t like. You know, you dust yourself off and you go do something else, or if you’re in a bad relationship, you dust yourself off. But there are only twelve decisions that really mattered, and a third of those decisions centered around relationships: who I married, who my friends are, what kind of relationship do I want to have with God? The relationship that I have with my son. So think about this now, there are only twelve decisions that I believe really matter. Four or five of those, or almost a third, all come down to relationships. And so now you start to think about the most important things. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Dust yourself off if you make a mistake. But really get the big ones right. And you’re on your way to finding and living your purpose and really having a life of impact and legacy.
I learned early on, and it’s still a daily journey, having all this outward success is not fulfilling, if that’s it, if that’s all you have. But when you know how you got it, it actually allows you to enjoy it a little bit more. You know what I’m saying? I mean, because I’ve been there where I thought, Man, if I got this or I got a house this size or If I had this car made, my life is set. And you start to realize once you get it, that little joy lasts for a second, and then all of a sudden it’s just a car. It’s just a house. You get no real enjoyment. But when you appreciate how you got it, it allows you to enjoy it a little bit more than when you use that to help others and make an impact on others, boy, then that’s when the light really shines bright.
Narrator: You can find Steve’s book, Uncompromising: How an Unwavering Commitment to Your Why Leads to an Impactful Life and Lasting Legacy, wherever books are sold.
If you’d like to hear more stories about finding your purpose, check out our interview with Sadie Robertson.
Next Week on the Podcast: Lanny West
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast we hear from Lanny West, a former music executive who struggled with alcohol and drug abuse early in life. He’s found peace in the hills outside of Nashville and now runs a wellness center for musicians and anyone who needs help restarting their life and connecting with God again.
Lanny West: I look back on my life. And even though I didn’t know my real father, there was a Father that was watching out for me. And I look back on all of these experiences and know that Jesus Christ had His hand in saving me.