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Finding Your Path in Life (Part 2 of 2)

Air Date 05/21/2019

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How do you know when you're not only in the right job, but on the right track in life? Author Cynthia Tobias shares guidelines to help you determine what talents God has given you, and what strengths will get you where you need to go. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Cynthia Tobias: You change the world just by being in it. You can’t help it. The world can’t be the same because you’re here. So like it or not, you’re making a difference. You’re having an influence one way or the other.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: What an interesting perspective from today’s guest, Cynthia Tobias. And she’s back with us again today on Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus President Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: John, we’re halfway through a very interesting presentation from Cynthia, focusing in on finding the best ways to impact the world, using the strengths and talents that God has given us. And if you missed part one of Cynthia’s presentation yesterday, please get in touch with us. We can send you the entire message on CD or audio download, or you can get the Focus on the Family broadcast app for your smartphone.

John: And all of those are gonna be found at If you have any questions, our number is 800-232-6459.

Jim: And this message is applicable to all ages, but we especially wanted to feature it at this time of year for all those teens and young adults who are graduating high school or college, and trying to figure out their future. And if you visit us online, you’ll find some free downloads for them as well.

John: And here now is Cynthia Tobias, author of classic books like, The Way They Learn and You Can’t Make Me - that latter title for strong-willed individuals. This content is from her newest book, A Woman of Strength and Purpose. And we’ll start with a brief recap.


Cynthia: So I got to thinking, well, how do you really know if you’re not only in the right job but in the right place? I mean, how do you know if you’re even on track because sometimes you have to do something that’s not exactly right job in order to get where you’re supposed to be. You have lots of different detours you have to take, so how would you know that you’re actually on the right track? And I think there are three ways that you’ll know that you’re on the right track. I think the first most important way that you’ll know you’re on the right track is that you will know what your strengths are. You’ll know how God blessed you. You’ll recognize what you were gifted with and what you weren’t gifted with.

A few months ago I decided I was going to design a sticker. And I talked about this virtually for a while. And I was in Delaware a few weeks ago, and they actually - somebody - the principal there at the school made a sticker for me. It’s a sticker that - I picture it being like this, you know, you can hand it to people, then they can just peel it off and stick it on them. And here’s what the sticker says. It says, “So it’s all about you?”


Could you not do pretty well with a stack of these? Could you not give them out? Could you not have given a few out today, almost every day, to drivers, to people in line in front of you? “So it’s all about you?” I was in Philadelphia, I was waiting to get on an airplane. And we were waiting in line. And I was just talking to the lady next to me. I don’t know who she is. And there were people behind me. And I didn’t realize anybody else was listening. But we were talking, and somehow we got on this topic of ‘so it’s all about you’ sticker. And just as we were getting ready to board this very self-important businessman elbowed his way right up to the front, shoved everybody else aside, and got on first. And the guy behind me muttered, “Oh, I need one of your stickers.”


Here’s your sticker.

Second, I think after knowing your strengths, I think it’s real important to know what you’re aiming for. What are you going for? One of my very favorite questions - I think it would revolutionize the world of business, it would revolutionize every staff meeting you’ve ever been in, every school you’ve ever had, if we just asked and answered one simple question: “What’s the point?” “So, like, bottom line, though, what’s the point?” Imagine how much time that could save at committee meetings. “So bottom line, though, guys, what are we shooting for here? Where do we want to end up because if we could identify what we’re shooting for, then could we find different ways to get there and then could we - we could all agree on this one bottom line what’s the point?”

Who are we reaching? What is the point? What are we trying to accomplish in your life? Do you know? What are you trying to accomplish? Do you even have a goal defined? Do you know what it is? Do you know where you’re going? Will you know when you get there? Because you need to know where you’re going.

It’s important to remember, “Lord, what am I supposed to be doing?” Keep my head up. Keep my mind in the Word and keep my head up so that I can see the people around me and realize I need to know what I’m aiming for. And it needs to be what God wants me to do, not what I’ve determined is important.

Well, number one, of course, was you need to know your strengths. And number two, you need to know what you’re aiming for. You know what number three is? This one’s kind of hard but not really. You need to know how you’re supposed to change the world. You are, you know? You change the world just by being in it. You can’t help it. The world can’t be the same because you’re here. So like it or not, you’re making a difference. You’re having an influence one way or the other. You are supposed to change the world. Some people have great and grand dreams of changing the world. I did when I was 18. I can remember going to college and standing below the clock tower and telling God as a fresh-faced, 18-year-old girl, “Lord, I’ll be anything you want. I’d really like to be a writer, though. In fact, I don’t want to do anything but be a writer. I’ll do some other things on the way to being a writer. I’d like to maybe be editor of Good Housekeeping or at another New York magazine because I just want to be a writer. I’ll do other things on the way to being a writer. But I don’t want to teach. I’ll do anything but teach.”


Halfway through my freshman year I knew I was supposed to teach. So I sort of agreed to teach. But I had come from - I grew up in Las Vegas, okay? My dad was a preacher in Las Vegas. I was a city girl, through and through, and Idaho, it was not Las Vegas and cows in the parking lot and there were just - so I told the Lord, “Okay” - I went back to the clock tower - I said, “Okay, I’ll teach, but I’ll teach anywhere but Idaho. Idaho is a boring, dead-end state. I will teach anywhere but Idaho.” So my first three years after graduating I taught high school in Idaho.


And I learned to love Idaho. And I learned to not tell God what I would and wouldn’t do. I had, really, an amazing tapestry of life. I had an amazing life. I mean, I taught high school and loved it. I was a police officer for six years and loved it. I got into learning styles and loved it and figured out ways that kids learn and did seminars for teachers and parents. And in 1992 - late 1992 - I got a phone call out of the blue from the acquisitions editor at Focus on the Family. Gwen said, “You know, we’ve seen some of your seminars and your handouts and heard a little bit about what you do and teach and we here at Focus on the Family are wondering, would you be interested in writing a book for us?” I said, “Let me think about it. Yes! I would actually.”


October of 1994, The Way They Learn, my very first book, was published almost 20 years to the day from the time I stood at the clock tower and told God, “All I want to be is a writer.” It’s like God said to me, “And what would you have written about?”


I didn’t know it was going to take 20 years. In fact, at 18 if you had told me it would take 20 years for my dream to come true, it would have been way too discouraging to go on. That’s not how God works. He brings the tapestry of your life and at each juncture, molds it, lends it, pulls you into where you’re supposed to be. And for some of you, you’ve had a dream and a vision - it’s 30 years old, and you’ve already decided it’s too late, too late, thirty years, that’s gone. I got to tell you, it’s not.

My sister and I, we went to a Merrill Lynch dinner. And the speaker was a gerontologist. Now, there’s only a few true, bonafide gerontologists in the whole country. A gerontologist is an aging specialist. So, I mean, she has a masters and a doctorate degree in aging. And she introduced us to brand new research that has since been verified - and I have verified it - the new age brackets now. And maybe you don’t know this or a lot of you do - the new age brackets. Middle age is now 40 to 60, okay? Upper - upper middle age is 60 to 80. And you are officially not considered an elderly person till you are 81. Is that cool? It’s a good thing with the current stock market.


You don’t have to think about retirement till you are 81.


That also means that some of you who are kind of relaxing now thinking that it’s okay, you don’t have to change the world because you’re too old, you are so mistaken. If you’re younger than 81, you still have a lot of years left. You do. And God has things planned for you. You can’t just stop and sit down. He still has a dream and a vision alive in your heart.

I was in Southern California speaking at a Christian school, and we talked about this. And a lady came up to me afterwards, and she said, “Oh” - she says, “I’m retiring next year, I’m 62,” decided to retire. And she said, “30 years ago I told God I wanted to be someone who went into the barrio in Los Angeles and teach - I wanted to teach the Hispanic children who could not get to school. I wanted to homeschool them and teach them and I have a heart for them and learn Spanish.” And she said, “That’s what I wanted to do. And I decided I’m 62 now, I’m too old. I never did it.” She said, “But you know what God said to me today? He told me I still have - I still need to do it.” She said, “I don’t even speak Spanish, but I’m going to do that.” She said, “Next year I’m going to enroll in Spanish classes, and I’m going to go to the barrio like God wanted me to 30 years ago.” Heard from her just a few weeks ago. She’s enrolled in Spanish class. She’s 62. She’s going back. She’s got till 80.


She’s going to go make a difference, and she thought it was too late. So she took a good long look at her strengths, and she took a good long look and spent time in prayer deciding what God really wanted for her, what she should be aiming for, and then she took a look around and thought, “I’m still supposed to change the world.”

See, some of you are thinking you can’t change the world because you’re not all that smart. I got news for you. You’re a whole lot smarter than you think you are. I just, I mean - and I ask this a lot - but I want to know who decided what’s normal? Who got to decide that? What if we’re medicating the wrong people all along?


Who decided that the normal people were the ones that didn’t talk back or ever push the envelope or ever get active? Why aren’t we worried about the ones who don’t do anything? Why not medicate them?


Why not sedate parents and teachers a little more and let the - seriously. You’re thinking that you’ve got something wrong with you just because you’re too restless or you don’t fit the mold. Excuse me, but you can’t change the world if you’re like it. God sent us into the world not to be part of it but to help transform it. You’re supposed to change it. You don’t have to change it in huge ways. I don’t know that God’s going to ask you to do something you really hate to do. I think He’s going to prepare you for it. You don’t have to go out and invent something. You don’t have to go out and be able to be a beautiful songwriter, incredibly talented songwriter. You don’t have to be a gifted speaker or a gifted teacher or a gifted preacher to change the world. You don’t. See, we’re here because we can help inspire you. And you’re the ones that go out and affect thousands and thousands and thousands of lives. It’s because of what you hear and you discover and you do. It’s not because of what we say. It’s because of what God does in your heart as a result of being where He put you. You’re not here by accident. You know that, right? You didn’t come here by accident. God had a very specific plan in mind for you to be here this weekend at this moment, in this place, sitting by the person you’re sitting beside, listening to the people you’re listening to so that God has a message for you. You will change the world one way or the other.

David Keirsey wrote a book called, Please Understand Me. And he spoke at a Myers-Briggs psychological type conference many, many years ago. And I listened to him. And I will never forget the story he ended his conference with. He said he was flying across country on a jet, and he was sitting next to a young mother with a brand new baby. He said, “This young mother, however, had been born with no arms. And what she was doing with the baby, she was kind of propping up the baby with the stubs of her arms. And she was doing everything with her feet.” He said, “It was amazing. I was just stunned at how good she was at it.” He said, “I didn’t want to say anything, but about halfway through the flight I couldn’t help myself.” He said, “I said to this young mother, ‘Don’t you find it extremely difficult to be a young mother and have a brand new baby and yet not have any arms?” She said, “I’ll tell you the truth. There’s one major drawback.” He said, “What’s that?” She said, “Watch.” Quickly with her feet she reached in the diaper bag and got the baby’s bottle. Expertly with her feet, she put the bottle up by the baby, who with his feet, put the bottle in his mouth. His arms lay useless by his sides. He didn’t know he had them.

We are such powerful influencers in the people of our lives. We don’t even realize who’s watching, who’s being influenced. You are changing the world right now. Is it going in the right direction for you? Is it where God wants you to be? There are times when you, in changing the world, have to change yourself first. That’s painful. Our pastor said many Sundays ago - he said, “There is no transformation without brokenness.” Well, I don’t want to hear that.

Years ago - I grew up in the church. I’m a preacher’s kid. Growing up in the church and we sang that chorus” “Righteousness, righteousness is what I long for.” And then the verse that says, “brokenness, brokenness is what I long” - I never sang that verse. You would be crazy to sing that verse.


Who is going to sing that verse? I left that verse out, and I was silent, just pretending like I was praying. What I was really saying - “I’m not really doing brokenness.” But you know what? You get it anyway. You get it anyway, parts of your life that have to be broken.

Program Note:

John: This is Focus on the Family and we’re listening to Cynthia Tobias. And you can get a CD of this entire program and Cynthia’s book, A Woman of Strength and Purpose when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459, or request that at our website:

Alright. Here’s more now from Cynthia Tobias.

End of Program Note

Cynthia: Most of you know I’m a very strong-willed woman. One of the things I’ve always prided myself on, even as a strong Christian, is some self-sufficiency, being able to keep it all together, you know, being a speaker and a mom and being successful in lots of different ways and just God has blessed and all this stuff. And - and some of you, you know, I was here four years ago, and I told you a little bit of my story. But a little over five years ago, suddenly, I was in a very unexpected place of brokenness with an unexpected divorce. A divorce? Oh, my goodness. That can’t even happen to me. That would be the furthest thing from my mind ever. And my former husband saying, “You’ll be ruined. No one will want you, a Christian woman who’s divorced. You’ll be ruined. You’ll lose everything.” Maybe I will. I don’t even know. I didn’t have any idea even how to do that, and a single mom and the Valley and all of a sudden being plunged into brokenness in almost every area of my ‘self-sufficient’ life. I had things kind of - I mean, so I kept things together, kept the boys well and, you know, we just - we just kept things together. It was painful, and it was horrible. But I still had a couple pillars that we’re standing on. I’m thinking “God is good, and He’s faithful.” And all along I had no idea that He wasn’t trying to do it to help me keep my pillars up. He was showing me that I couldn’t keep the pillars. They can’t stay.

I listened - I didn’t even know who the pastor was - to a random radio station one night. And he was saying, “God gives us grace, but He doesn’t give us grace to fix our plan. His grace is giving us a new plan.” I don’t want to hear that. I like my plan. I’m all comfortable with my plan because I already know that if I just do this and I do this here and juggle this, I’m not going - you know, I still have my financial pillar okay, and I have my - and God said, “Don’t you realize the plan that I have for you is a new plan.” I don’t want a new plan. Don’t want a new plan. Because you know what the new plan calls for? Total, total abdication of self-sufficiency.

I am a strong-willed woman. I am quite capable. I’m capable of being successful. And I’m capable of holding things together. And I’m capable of juggling and doing it all. And I don’t want to give that up because I would be weak. And the Lord said, “That’s right, that’s right.” Because until I take all my self-sufficiency and my plans and I know my strengths and I know what I’m aiming for and all that stuff, and I already figured out how I’m supposed to change the world, so just let me go. Thank you, Lord, and just bless me, and here’s my plan. Just bless me. And instead of blessing me, you know what He did?


He made every last pillar crumble. The last one crumbled last year. It was the financial pillar. I never thought that would go. And I still remember about six months ago being on my face before God, finally, really, on my face and praying. Every morning I prayed in the shower and cried in the shower, anyway, where people couldn’t see me because you don’t want to admit to people that you’re this weak. And God kept saying, “You can’t be self-sufficient.” I was on my face before Him singing, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” And I always sang that my whole life, but I always had things in my hands. I always did. But this time, for the first time in my entire life, it was physically, literally true. And it was all gonna be gone.

Two weeks later, the man that I had met unexpectedly, a godly man, several months before, we actually had our first date. We’d been corresponding. And I normally don’t do that, kind of broke all the rules, and showed up on the first date. Jack sat down. And he said, “You’re going to think this sounds funny.” And he said, “I’ve never done this before. But I have to tell you that I have never been more sure of this. I believe God has sent me to you. And I believe I am supposed to be part of your life and your ministry. I have a little money. I have a lot more love.” And I looked at him like he was crazy.


Seven weeks ago I married that man.


And it never would have happened if I hadn’t taken the self-sufficiency and put it on the cross.

I went to South Africa with a group of police officers. We did some training down there. And we did a ‘women in law enforcement’ thing down in South Africa at Cape Town. And there was a very, um, very highly thought of chaplain. She was a high woman - high in law enforcement. And everybody revered and respected her. And she was married to a police officer. And she was speaking, and, you know, she’s a really big deal down there. And after she finished speaking, we were talking. And I don’t even know how it came up. But I said something about so - “Well, that’s great. So you and your husband, you’re doing okay?” And she pulled me aside, she said, “Only one other person in the whole world knows this, but my husband is trying to have me killed. And we are in the middle of a very nasty, very contentious divorce.” And she said, “I don’t even know what to do with this. I am a woman of God. These people look to me. What am I supposed to do? Divorce isn’t even acceptable. I can’t even tell anybody.” And we started talking. And I told her my story, that it was pretty fresh still then. And she hugged me. And she said, “To think God sent someone all the way from the United States of America to speak this word in my heart.”

My ministry opened up in areas that I never, ever would have entered. I had no idea that the people I was sitting among all this time had so much pain and so much heartache that they didn’t dare even share with anybody. “What will people think? They’ll think I’m not a Christian. They’ll think I don’t care about things. They’ll think I’m - they’ll think I can’t hold it together. They know I’m a strong woman. They know that I’ve accomplished a lot. I cannot tell this person sitting next to me how much pain I am really in.” They were there all along. And I didn’t have any idea - I didn’t have any idea until God took me to the bottom and said, “Leave it all at the cross, and trust Me.” “I do trust you, but could I” - “No, leave it all at the cross and trust Me.”

There is no transformation without brokenness. Last week, the pastor said something else that I wrote down in my Bible. Here’s what - I’m going to read it to you because I loved it. He said, “What can be shaken will be shaken so that what can’t be shaken will remain.” Did you get that? “What can be shaken will be shaken so that what can’t be shaken will remain.” A solid ministry for Christ, a solid love from a godly man, a solid home for two wonderful godly boys who graduate from high school this year, a solid peace and a solid future that couldn’t possibly have come from anyone but God. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken so that what can’t be shaken will remain.


John: Cynthia Tobias on today’s Focus on the Family.

Jim: Boy, this is so good. I hope you got a lot out of it. You can tell that Cynthia is a pastor’s daughter. You can hear her pastor’s heart for others. And that really came through as she shared the wisdom she has gained over the years.

You know, Cynthia was so transparent there, about what it was like to be on the receiving end of divorce papers, and let me just remind you that if you’re in that situation right now, there is hope for your marriage! Our Hope Restored marriage intensives have a success rate of over 80 percent, and many of those couples had already started the divorce process. Every day we get letters like this one from Margaret. She said, “We live in the Dominican Republic and listen to your podcast. When our marriage was in serious trouble, I called the counselors at Focus and they recommended going to Hope Restored. I believe a miracle happened there! It’s been two years and my husband and I are the happiest we have been in a long time. God has blessed us so much and we are so grateful to Him and to Focus on the Family.”

John: I love what God does through this ministry and through Hope Restored. To see a marriage go from being “in serious trouble” to “we’re the happiest we have been in a long time?” That is a miracle! But that’s a pretty typical comment we receive from couples who attend Hope Restored.

Jim: It’s really amazingly effective. And of course, sometimes one spouse may be unwilling to give the marriage another try, and if that’s the case, please call our counseling department and let them pray with you and give you some ideas on what your next best steps will be.

Let me encourage you also to be a champion for marriage by donating regularly to Focus on the Family. In fact, a monthly pledge is really the best way to help us and help others. We have monthly expenses just like you do in your household, so we would love to have you partner with us in a regular way. And when you make a monthly pledge of any amount, I’d like to send you a copy of Cynthia Tobias’s book, A Woman of Strength and Purpose. And if you can’t make that monthly pledge, I understand. We can send you Cynthia’s book for a one-time gift of any amount. It’s a great follow-up to what you heard today.

And like we said last time, if you’re thinking about a young adult who needs help finding their path in life, we have two interviews with Pastor John Ortberg on that very topic. And we’ll post those on our website as free audio downloads, so come visit us. 

John: The starting point is where you’ll find everything we’ve been talking about right there. Also, you can call us, of course. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459.

Well, next time we’ll hear from Jessie Gallaher as she tells her story of adopting 5 kids from foster care.

Well, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Cynthia Tobias

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For more than 30 years, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias has been teaching people of all ages how to discover and use the strengths of their natural learning style to succeed in virtually any situation. She is an author, speaker, and the founder and CEO of AppLe St. (Applied Learning Styles). Cynthia's latest books include You Can't Make Me! and A Woman of Strength and Purpose, in addition to her classics The Way They Learn, Every Child Can Succeed and Bringing Out the Best in Your Child. She has two grown sons. Learn more about Cynthia by visiting her website,