Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Walk Like An Egyptian

Written by: on March 6, 2023

I have a robust, running list called “My Life Goals.” It has a wide variety of bucket list-like items that I am excited to accomplish at some point in my life. It’s exhilarating to check the box “done.” I can feel the endorphins rushing through me.

Some of My Life Goals, in no particular order, are: learning to play the harmonica, eating al pastor tacos in Mexico City, be a street busker for a day, give a TED Talk, eat a bowl of Khao Soi Gai in Thailand, and sleep in an igloo. A few Life Goals I have already accomplished are: attending a Green Bay Packer game in Lambeau Field, walk around Red Square in Moscow, become a dual citizen of another country (Luxembourg) and seeing U2 in concert…in Dublin, Ireland.

Endorphins galore.

One goal fulfilled a few weeks ago was the making of my first ceramic pottery bowl. In a few week I will be painting a landscape for the very first time. And exactly one month from today (as of this posting), I will be standing in front of a huge bucket list item:  the Pyramids of Giza. Austin Kleon says “Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable. You need to spend some time in another land, among people that do things differently than you. Travel makes the world look new, and when the world looks new, our brains work harder” (Kleon, 94). I have been a big Austin Kleon fan for a number of years. When “Steal Like An Artist” was published in 2012 I snagged it up fast, and have loved all of his writings such as “Show Your Work” and “Keep Going.”

He is like a good pencil: simple but sharp.

Sure beats complex and dull.

Two books that I have personally written (albeit self-published) were conceived and executed with “Steal Like An Artist” sitting right in front of me. I imitated the physical size of his books, the punchy sentence structure, and the winsome use of language.

The pottery instructor that worked with me on the making of a ceramic bowl said that I was the “quickest learner she has ever had.” I give full credit to binging three seasons of “The Great Pottery Throwdown” on HBO Max. In preparation for my painting lesson I am doing a deep dive into the late, great Bob Ross. Also, I’m thinking about growing my hair like his iconic fro. Don’t stop me.

You see, it’s OK to copy and emulate others, especially your heroes. Kleon says, “The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want–to internalize their way of looking at the world” (Kleon, 36). All the “greats” have done it, but they didn’t stop with copying, they brought transformation to bear upon their imitation, in order to “add something to the world that only you can add” (Kleon, 41).

So, in one month I will be standing in front of the Egyptian Pyramids, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I hope, and will encourage our tour guide, that we start not at Giza, but instead at the Pyramid of Dahshur. At Dahshur, there are two pyramids, the first built between 2613-2589 BC.  The architect started this pyramid with limestone but miscalculated the structural weight placed on the soft ground. The enormous blocks used to construct the pyramid did not have their weight distributed appropriately, therefore the pyramid was off-kilter, so the construction was abandoned. It’s now known as “The Bent Pyramid of Dahshur.” [1]

I am curious to discover, hopefully while on this trip, how the Egyptians, with no technology, sophisticated tools or modern machinery were able to build these amazing structures, the only structures visible from space. Who did they copy/imitate/emulate? Who did they steal from?

Speaking of stealing…you can bet all the money in your pocket that when me and my wife, along with 40 folks from our church are in Egypt, standing in front of the Pyramids, we will steal from “The Bangles” 80’s hit song, “Walk Like An Egyptian.”

Look out Instagram followers.


[1]. https://medium.com/illumination/management-lessons-in-the-pyramids-b1e2745cb538

[2]. https://www.nppostgradtraining.com/2017/01/11/lessons-learned-from-the-great-pyramids/


About the Author


John Fehlen

John Fehlen is currently the Lead Pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church. Prior to that he served at churches in Washington and California. A graduate of Life Pacific University in San Dimas, CA in Pastoral Ministry, and Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA with a Masters in Leadership and Spirituality. He and his wife Denise have four grown children and four grandchildren. John is the author of “Intentional Impressions," a book for fathers and their sons, "Don't Give Up: Encouragement for Weary Souls in Challenging Times," a book for pastoral leaders, and "The Way I See You," a children's book. You can connect with John on Instagram (@johnfehlen) as well as on his blog (johnfehlen.com).

11 responses to “Walk Like An Egyptian”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Such a fun read.

    I enjoyed the comment…You see, it’s OK to copy and emulate others, especially your heroes. Kleon says, “The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want–to internalize their way of looking at the world” (Kleon, 36).

    This dovetails quite nicely with Poole’s apprenticeship programs. Young artists copying older artists to perfection. In leadership apprenticeship we are called to first copy then to do something that bears “our mark”

    Schools of thought, herd mentalities, group think are the start point. Then come the heroes who add that additional layer that makes them “original.”

    I saw they just found a new tunnel in the Pyramid in Giza. What wonders will emerge I wonder. Have a great time in Egypt!..Shalom…Russ

    • mm John Fehlen says:

      Russell, that’s a great connection you made to Poole, and Leadersmithing. I hadn’t seen that until you connected that dot in my mind. I absolutely concur about mentoring being a process of emulation/copying of older leaders – I’ve done that most of my life, and I know of younger leaders that do that toward me. It’s actually quite honoring. The challenge is to at some point find your own voice, footing, etc and be the best version of yourself rather than just an imitation of someone else.

      With your military background (did I remember that correctly?) how have to seen this play out?

      • mm Russell Chun says:

        My military background seems like water WAY under the bridge, but 23 years, 6 months and 11 days do tend to have an impact on how one thinks (the number was given to be by the young retirement admin person sending me off into the civilian world in 2005).

        Apprenticeship & Young Military Officers go hand in hand. However, the war footing tech that I started with has changed dramatically. I used a map. Officers use their GPS. Our current radios, night sight stuff is amazing.

        Short story, while we learn leadership techniques in our young leadership years (1 1/2 years) the battlefield landscape is so different that old war dogs like me can only wonder at how tech will impact future leadership training.

        Still the area around Bakhmut has reverted to trench warfare. Perhaps the old school methods of teambuilding, trust building (am I sounding like Poole?) will return to the forefront of leadership training.

        As we gear up for Russia or China (pick the flavor of the day), our leaders will need Courage, a Heart, and a Brain.

  2. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

    John…OMG! We have more in common than I would have ever imagined. Sleeping in an igloo, doing a TED talk, authoring a book (you are two ahead of me), riding a camel (I’m not sure if it’s on your list but maybe you should consider adding it) these are all on my bucket list. There are a few more, well actually a lot more.
    I love your description of Kleon, “He is like a good pencil: simple but sharp.” and I agree, “Sure beats complex and dull.”
    Have a safe and wonderful adventure in Egypt. I’m looking forward to hearing about it.

    • mm John Fehlen says:

      Oh, sister, I have ridden many a camel. Not my favorite mode of transportation that’s for sure!

      In regards to “stealing” and “bucket list” – when I was drafting my Life Goals, I captured a bunch of things that I’ve always wanted to do, and that are notably personal to me or my wife (ie: celebrating our 50th anniversary)…but then I went onto Google and typed “bucket lists” and borrowed from other people’s dreams and aspirations. It was inspiring. Do you ever do that? Do you ever borrow other people’s dreams and make them your own?

      • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

        This: “Oh, sister, I have ridden many a camel”, sounds like the perfect title to a book that I’d like to read!

        I will be using “the google” to get some bucket list ideas…thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Travis Vaughn says:

    Why does it not surprise me that you had already read Kleon before? This was the first time I had ever heard of him. What DID surprise me is that you’ve not yet given a TED talk. I would think you would excel in that endeavor, and I would imagine it’s only a matter of time.

    By the way, I love the physical size of Kleon’s book, but I’m not a fan of the way the pages seem to easily come detached from their binding. I’m guessing he needs to emulate someone else when it comes to finding someone to help with his book bindings. The pages are literally falling out of the book now, but perhaps that is because I LOVED this little book and have gone through it again and again over the past week.

    Who would you say that have copied, or emulated, the most in your writing style?

    • mm John Fehlen says:

      Binding…so, I must have loaned out my personal copy of the book to a staff member or someone, but regardless I couldn’t find it on my shelf. So…I borrowed a copy from the public library so I could refresh myself on it and blog. That particular copy was so THRASHED, pages falling out everywhere, all taped up. It was a mess.

      I wonder if there’s a lesson somewhere in there.

      Even how Kleon uses old newspaper print and blackens out words to create art…what if some of the best, most innovating things come from that which is tattered and used? Just thinking out loud.

      Writing style: two authors that I emulate are John Mark Comer and Rob Bell. They have wildly different theologies – that’s not my point, but rather their style of writing, short punchy sentences, lots of white space, etc.

      You? You do any writing, or have any people you draw most from?

      • Travis Vaughn says:

        Great question, John. I honestly am not sure who has shaped my writing the most. I have done a little bit of writing. Nothing like you, of course. I have a few published articles, but no books. I’ve certainly been influenced by a few authors, but I can’t think of who may have actually influenced my writing style. But I would like to find out more about John Mark Comer. His name came up last week in a conversation I had with three pastors.

  4. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi John,
    Happy travels! Egypt sounds amazing and your exposure to unfamiliar art forms is inspiring. Do you have a favorite that you would like to pursue further?
    I appreciated how you brought into the discussion that failure is part of the learning process. It’s not failure when trying something new. It’s adventure and experimentation. Learning is taking place and forward progress made.
    Have any of your bucket list items turned out to be less than what you were expecting? If so, what learning from the experience stands out to you?

  5. Saint John! Man, I love love love your posts. You are so intelligent, fun to read, and smooth. As we said in the hood growing up, “You are BAD!”

    After reading your brilliant post, I just have one easy question:
    You quoted Kleon, All the “greats” have done it, but they didn’t stop with copying, they brought transformation to bear upon their imitation, in order to “add something to the world that only you can add”
    In the past year how have you seen yourself transforming your culture in order to add something to it?

Leave a Reply