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I had the great honor of interviewing a very inspiring author and speaker, Ben Courson, who just came out with his brand new book Optimisfits. I emensely enjoyed reading the book as well as reviewing it and interviewing Ben, so I hope this review and interview are inspirational to you as well–and convince you to read his book!
OPTIMISFITS: IGNITING A FIERCE REBELLION AGAINST HOPELESSNESS
April 21, 2019
PUBLISHED BY: Harvest House Publishers (March 19, 2019)
LENGTH: 205 pages
BUY ON: Amazon
Did you know that depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world today? It is a growing problem that is becoming rampant in our world. Ben Courson, founder of Hope Generation, addresses this issue in his newest book, Optimisfits: Igniting A Fierce Rebellion Against Hopelessness. Stop fitting in, comparing yourself to other people, and living in hopelessness; start standing out, being different, and living with “child-like wonder”. Ben Courson encourages the reader to go on friendventures with joy and enthusiasm. He helps lift the curtain of hopelessness or depression off the readers by explaining that we don’t always know why God does what He does, why He lets us go through the things we go through, and why we experience the tragedies we experience, but we do know that God does it all for a bigger purpose. We will one day understand God’s ways, but for now, our job is to just live every day as it were our last. With humor and passion, Ben Courson explains how to start a squad of optimistic misfits who rebel against society and live adventurously with joy and optimisim. A squad called the optimisfits. Join this squad and start living your life in optimism and wonder, ready for each and every new day that life brings your way, in Ben Courson’s Optimisfits.
I absolutely LOVED Optimisfits! It is now my favorite book! I preordered it several weeks before it came out, and I waited for what seemed like forever before I finally got it in my hands. I was so excited to read it and I read it pretty much immediately after I recieved it in the mail.
I thought it applyed so well to our generation today. No matter what age a person is, Optimisfits will aply to their life. Ben Courson wrote in my favorite style as a non fiction author. He shared his own real-life stories and he wrote with humor and conviction. His zeal for God is contagious and inspiring. His story is so amazing; he has experienced quite a bit of loss in his life, and yet he didn’t let it get him down. Instead, he uses it to inspire others. I was inspired and encouraged in Optimisfits as it seemed to be written just for me.
Optimisfits will encourage and inspire you like never before!
Ben Courson is the founder of Hope Generation, has a global TV and radio program, and is a gifted and nationally renowned speaker. His humorous, uplifting, and high-energy style couples with a gift to communicate God’s heart in an impactful way. His ultimate mission is to generate hope in God to build a generation of hope in others.
I know you are a public speaker as well as an author–which do you prefer?
Oh gosh that’s such a good question! That’s such a good question! I feel like Chris Martin put it really well (the lead singer from Coldplay). Like, when he’s thinking of his love for his piano and his love for his guitar, they are like children. And you can’t love one more than the other. Because you’d feel unfaithful if you opted for one. For me, they’re two sides of the same coin. They’re different expressions of the same part and defiantly if I didn’t have both venues and avenues to express my vision and my passion and my message and what is really my ideology, ideals, and ideas, what would happen is I would feel I would have this blockage–like a traffic jam in my brain–and if I don’t get my thoughts out, there’d be a lot of accidents up in my head. So I think both of them are equally essential and important and self-expressioned. The simple answer is I like them both.
What would you say caused you to launch your TV and radio program?
Paul the Apostle used the highest technology of his day (the Persian mailing system, the Roman roads, the dictation of letters—these were all avenues of technology in Paul’s day) so for me I wanted to use the media because that’s sort of the public square-the marketplace-of our day to get a message out. I want to use the most cutting-edge technology. Jesus said the wise man pulls from treasures new and old. The wise teacher pulls from treasures new and old. And so I want to use kind of the older medium of cutting-edge technology. . Back in the previous generation which was tv and radio and also employing the newest means of technology which is social media so we try to really utilize both of those two to get a message out. And I honestly for ten years I had a flip phone—I didn’t even have social media because I was just focusing on doing the ten-thousand hour rule. And then when I finally realized that you can’t really get a message out in our day if you don’t have social media so like it’s kind of like trying to be a speaker while cutting out your vocal cords. It just doesn’t work that way. But I’m really grateful that I had fifteen years with no social media so that I could really focus on honing my craft. And I think we need to prioritize our ability and secondary is our opportunity but we need them both.
Do you think one of the social media platforms works the best?
TV is great because one of the networks on the Hillsong channel literally airs in prisons and palaces. Like one of my favorite things is when I hear a testimony of a guy in prison for example. And a lot of people hear about Hope generation because they’re channel surfing and so they’ll find it on TV. Radio is great because when people are driving on the freeway just seeing what’s on they’re dial and then we’ll pop up and crop up, drop by and stop out in the air waves and we can kind of infultrate their cars with out them even meaning to invite us specifically. I love Instagram because Instagram-what that does-it allows us to really post what’s happening in the moment. The daily you know kind of behind the scenes stuff along with our newest videos. We can kind of do the jab and the right hook going back and forth with stories and the walled feed and that’s really great for connecting with 18-25 year olds-that kind of age group specifically. Facebook is great for my parents’ generation; and with that generation is a lot of sharability. So if we have a video or a post or an article or a book that we really want to spread, we can share links very easily on Facebook. But mainly my favorite is youtube. That’s where we post all of our videos and we post a new video almost every other day-pretty close to that. One more thing about social media is social media is a good thing, but a good thing becomes a bad thing when you worship it as a lowercase God thing. So John opens one of his epistles by saying “Little children keep yourselves from idols…” And my friend levi, calls it an i-dolatry. You know, like an iphone, or an ipod or an ipad or an ishuffle—it’s i-dolatry. What happens is all technology is, is it is an expansion on already present human capacity. Like, for example, inventing a microphone did not invent vocal chords, it just made your voice louder. If you look at a car, it didn’t invent motion it just made you go faster. And so too social media did not invent connection, it just made us more inner-connected. But if you turn up the volume too loud on any technology, the very connection it was intended to create collapses on itself and you start to compare an not really connect. That’s when technology really collapses on itself—when you turn up the knob too loud.
I know you have a very busy schedule traveling and doing interviews, how do you find time to relax and decompress?
I’m actually trying to figure that out, Ani. That’s a very good probing, interlocketive, type of investitory journalism because I don’t know. Right now, I’m really trying to figure it out. Okay, so I’ll tell you my favorite thing to do. When I’m in Southern California-and I speak there a lot-I like to go to this place called Gwen Ivy. So, for example this past Saturday (April 6th), I was speaking in Orange County and before I spoke that night I woke up early, excercised, did my daily reading and then I drove from there to Gwen Ivy and, it’s a hot spring, like a huge outdoor spa. Like you can get a message or you can go in these mud caves or, you know, go in some salt saline pools and hot-cold pools that are really good for if you have allergies or things. It will contract your muscles to release toxins. So I went there for eight hours Saturday because I was so tired from traveling and I sandwiched it in between the rest of my stuff. And that was like very, very life-giving for me. So whenever I get a chance, I try to find a hot tub. If there’s a hot tub anywhere, that’s where I am—or a sauna. That’s where I really feel rejuvenated. Yeah, hot tubs and saunas are the B’s knees, in fact they’re the whole B. They’re just so good.
When you are not writing, speaking, or filming, what is your favorite thing to do?
Relaxing in a hot tub is my favorite thing to do to relax but my other favorite thing to do is I love to be around my friends. You know, the phrase introvert and extrovert to me is so binary; it’s a construct innovated by Carl Yumes who was a psycho analist. There’s no real objective reality to introvert and extrovert—its just an opinion. Like to me I’m a raging introvert and a raging extrovert. I think those two are too binary for my case so I like to say I’m a “Godvident Hopetrovert”. Yeah, if he can make up words, I can too!
What genres do you most enjoy reading?
I try to read very eclectic. So, I’ll do anything from—right now I’m reading a book by a catholic priest, the next book will be by my friend Greg Laurie, and then I’ll read fantasy, I’ll read sci fi, I’ll read apocolyptic, I’ll read meta physics. I’ll read a lot of science astro physics. Phsycology. I also like rebelit, like Brave New World, Catcher in the Rye—these kind of anti-establishment books. That kind of stuff. I also love reading poetry by like Homer, and Dontae, and Shakespere, and Tenison, and Whitman. So I read everything and I try to read as eclectic as possible.
I know some people think you should only read nonfiction—like fiction is just mush—what are your thoughts on that?
No, that’s hogwash. Fantasy and sci fi have actually changed my life. In fact, in Optimisfits I quote my favorite science fiction author, Matthew Stover. For example when he says, “Pain either has the power or break us or it is the power that makes you unbreakable. What it is depends on who you are.” And then in another book he says “It is not the power of darkness, that gives power to fear. It is fear that gives power to darkness.” I think he is one of the greatest living authors and those few quotes I was mentioning were actually from Star Wars books. I think people think “Oh, they’re space operas” and they kind of really put them down , but actually those are some of the great novels I think and the most underestimated of our time. Matthew Stover’s Traitor and Revenge of the Sith are truly amazing works of art that actually changed my life. Definitely the book Traitor changed my life. Studies show that when you read fantasy—or fiction—it actually increases your empathy because you’re able to get in another character’s skin.
Outside the Bible, what are your top three favorite books?
Star Wars “Traitor” and Star Wars “Revenge of the Sith” (I’ll put those two together since they are both Star Wars); “MockingJay”; and the third one—gosh—I don’t even know. I don’t know. What would I say is my third favorite book of all time? Probably, maybe–I’m going to think of something else later on that I like more–but probably “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.
Are you reading any books right now?
I’m reading a book about the Enneania Gram” and then I’m reading “The Odyssey”—I’m listening to the audiobook–by Homer translated by a woman actually which is really interesting because that was a very mastagamistic time. A W Verall, a historical scholar, said “Greece died because of a low view of women”, so its kind of cool hearing it translated by a woman. I also just finished reading books like When Faith Fails, Girl Wash Your Face, and Falling Upward.
Do you think your reading influences your writing?
I know it does. In fact, the great writers always put reading first as their to-do list. Stephen King said “The great commandment is to read a lot, write a lot”. And he said you’re supposed to read and write 4-6 hours a day. And I did that for years and it absolutely impacted every way I communicate. Reading is just as important as writing in my opinion. If you’re writing and not reading, you’re like drawing from an empty well. I’m not saying it can’t be done , but the most interesting authors to me are the ones who are very well read. It’s very anomalous for there to be a good author who is not well-read. In fact, I don’t know of any (who are very adept writers that don’t read).
What author has influenced you the most?
I would say Suzanne Collins and Matthew Stover.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
First of all, writing in the morning is very important. Your prefarental quartex are most active immediately after you wake up, so that first thirty minutes following when you roll out of bed is the most important time for you prefarental quartex , which is the center for creative thinking, to be activated. So it’s very important to write in the morning—or read in the morning. But also, I wrote the entire book, Optimisfits, from my iPhone. I’ve never heard of anyone writing an entire book from their phone. I would just turn my phone on airplane mode and, yeah, I wrote it from my iPhone. And I’m really happy I did. It’s a book about rebellion, so I figured I should write in a rebellious fashion.
What exactly inspired you to write Optimisfits?
Well I noticed that depression and despair is really running rampant in our country. I mean, people commit suicide every 40 seconds around the world. And I wasn’t okay with our planet falling into hopelessness, so I decided to rebel against the culture of despair—against the system that is supressing us into being caugy in it’s gears so I wanted to write a book were we were enabled and ennobled, equipped and empowered to ignite a fierce rebellion against hopelessness. Also the adventures I had with my friends were so wild that I was like, I have to write this because it doesn’t even seem real but they are. Like these are real people. Usually these characters have to be made up, but I found out like these people actually exist.
What made you pick the title and main topic of Optimisfits?
I needed a title that represented both otimisim and rebelliousness at the same time, and my brother-in-law was like, “You should call it optimisfits”. And right then I thought, “This is it!”. Usually, publishing companies don’t like made-up words, because it’s not the best for marketing, but in this case they were like “No, this is too good—we got to use it!”
What research did you do? (Like I know you have a lot of interesting little facts in your book–where did you get them?)
Well, I’m very obsessed with work so I read and I listen to audios all the time. And it’s just that simple—listening to podcasts and listening to educational YouTubes and reading A LOT of books. And then listening to a lot of sermons.
What has been your most powerful encounter with God?
When I was seventeen years old, I was in San Diego, and I was looking out over the water, the night was on the edge of the coming day and it was running out of things to say to itself. And the Lord told me my destiny and really revealed to me what I was going to do with myself—and that’s what I’m doing now. Yeah, and that was my most powerful God-experience probably ever. As far as getting direction for my life.
How can we know when it is Jesus talking to us?
All I can say is “deep calls into deep” and it’s a mystery. That’s why the name for God has been used in so many ways—the source , and the universe, the prime mover, the principle behind which you cannot go the mystery, and for me it was that. He’s not heard in the whirlwind or in the fire or in the storm but in the still, small voice—that’s when it’s heard. Mother Theresa and Dan Rather were talking in an interview and Dan Rather asked, “When you talk to God, what does He say?” and she said, “He doesn’t say anything, He listens.” So he said, “Okay, well when God talks to you, what does He say?” And Mother Theresa said, “He doesn’t say anything, He listens.” Dan Rather looked confused and Mother Theresa said, “If you don’t understand it, I can’t explain it to you.” And that’s what deep calls into deep can be like.
In your book, you talk about how we are to be optimistic about being a misfit; what would you say are the two most important practical ways to live that out in our day to day life?
That’s a great question! The two most practical ways we can be Optimistic Misfits:
Number one: Going on adventures with God and with squad. Finding friends that are not going to beat you up because of your failure, but build you up in your most holy faith. Finding friends who don’t suck the life out of you like a drain but give you life like a fountain. I think the friendventures are super important.
And then also I think to live the Optimisfits life is to not heed what society and authority is often telling us we need to be. Like the system’s broken so when we’re told you have to spend 150 Gs on a college education you can get for $1.50 at the local library, to work forty hours a week for 40 years, retire on 40% of your income, get your 401K, your 2.5 kids, your white picket fence, a time share in Palm Springs, touring around in you golf cart, only to claim a spot in a cemetery in a few years—like if that’s the American dream, then no thanks. And I think a very practical way to be a misfit is to say, “I’m going to be anti-establishment and I’m going to live my own adventures.”
Was there a point in your life when you think you exhibited being an Optimisfit the most?
I think like this past two years when my friends started coming into my life and taught me theres no such thing as a moderate rebolutionary and they encouraged me to stop being vanilla. When I started speaking more truth to power, and really not caring so much about what people thought of me, and just realizing as one artist said, “ I’d rather be hated for who I am then loved for who I am not.” I think, yeah, this past year of like my messages, I gave a message called “The Tale of Two Systems” or on YouTube its called “Why I’m Not Religious”. I think that really was a big moment for me in being a misfit.
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
That they would realize that fun is fundamental and that you were called to be a non-conformist adventurer who lives with wild abandonment and in child-like wonder and un-apologetic optimism.
What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion? Your book?
In my opinion, you got to finish it. Fifty percent of high school graduates never read through another book for the rest of their life cover-to-cover. So I always say finish it.
After writing this book, do you feel that this is something we can expect more from you?
Yes. That was a softball question—I liked it!
I had a blast doing this inbterview (thank you so much, Ben!) and I hope y’all enjoyed reading it! Make sure to visit Ben’s website and check out his book, Optimisfits as well!
This past week, I had the amazing oppurtunity to hear Ben Courson’s inspiring message of hope live (you can view that here) as well as meet him in person! It was so amazing to meet him and I was encuraged greatly by his message. I encourage all of you to read his book and listen to his message. And stay tuned because, I have an exciting giveaway coming up! (*hint*)