I’m a big fat liar

So it turns out I have a problem with the truth. I was confronted this past week by someone I respect very much and have newfound appreciation. He said, “…I believe you tend to convolute the truth so you feel okay about what you are doing.”

Those are tough words to swallow. Whether or not he had me fully pinned down, it turns out he had every right to pass any judgement on me he so desired. Let me back up.

Some time back I made some legal inquiries that pertained to a business contract. I wanted to know my rights if the “$*&^ hit the fan”, so to speak, and also wanted some negotiating leverage for a conversation I was preparing.

During one of these meetings I was confronted about these legal activities. I remember being slightly taken aback, but figured I may have mentioned something in a prior meeting.

Bottom line, I lied about the purpose for my visit, and would continue to stick to this lie for the next six months.

Over the course of this time, I would have many meetings, all of which would end in ridiculous arguments. I couldn’t understand what was happening. What had changed? As far as I was concerned all was well.

After one of these blow-up sessions and some serious praying, I had a bout of conscience. I was reminded of my shortcomings. I picked up the phone and confessed my lie. I was once again taken aback when I heard, “I already know all this.”

Wow, I felt small. Here was a man who, while knowing I had directly lied to him, continued to treat me with kindness and fairness, even to the point of going out of his way to ensure I had everything I needed.

I have heard many times, “Bless those who curse you and pray for those who despitefully use you.”, and here I was on the cursing end of that. So, yeah, I would say he had every right to pass judgement on me.

It made me really stop and think. Take inventory of my motives and actions. Am I being the person that I profess to be or just a phony? It’s hard to know when you are a big fat liar.

2015…a year of failure

2014 is come and gone. For me and my poor memory, it’s all but a distant past. Not really, but it sounds like the start to a good post. 2014 was a year of a lot of mixed emotions. In terms of business, it was a very frustrating year — I poorly negotiated some contracts, regretted those negotiations, loathed that it is so hard to find people you can trust fully in business (we’ve traded handshakes for 1200 page contracts), you get the picture. I learned a lot on the business side of things and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. So in the end, yeah, on the business side it wasn’t so bad. We paid the bills and put a little aside for a rainy day.

On the personal side of things, it was an amazing year for me. I was reunited with my wife after a four month work separation. After a six-year long battle with Bank of America over a house from three lifetimes ago, they finally accepted a short-sale. That left me with a $90,000 tax bill which gave me a bit of a scare until it was forgiven…thanks Congress, Senate, and Obama. That made us debt-free other than student loans! I also closed my Bank of America account. I did this on my birthday for extra satisfaction. We got the opportunity to live in a nice little cottage on a golf course for six months. Okay, it was a guest house, but hey, it was nice and I enjoyed it immensely.

We tried to do some soul searching by doing a Kairos Missions Course and attending some conferences including Traction West and Joyce Meyers. We also officially joined Christ Community Church.

We did more volunteering including meals on wheels, Amy worked with World Relief, we attended a thanksgiving banquet with refugees, we visited people in prison. We gave more away this year than ever before. Not just to churches or non-profits, but to people around us.

We travelled to Big Sur, Venice, Iceland, North Carolina, Yosemite, Reno, and Kingsburg. We fell in love with Nevada City.

I visited my family and extended family.

We celebrated our four year anniversary and are having sex more and more often (sounds silly but this is a great accomplishment that I may share in another post).

We met new friends that we really enjoy, started eating healthier, and going to the gym.

Amy published articles. I finished a product called Rezku (restaurant reservation system and floor management) that people are buying and a company called Guest Innovations (formerly Dinnerwire) is being built on.

We went and saw plays and shows including Blue Man Group, Celtic Women, Bill Cosby, and community theater.

We moved in with the in-laws. The rainy day fund doesn’t come without a price.

I even tried a little country line-dancing.

Looking back, 2014 was a great year. So why am I so glum about 2015? I’m not! I’m excited about 2015. Which is why my wife and I are calling it a year of failures. We are finally back on our feet. Maybe a little wobbly, but we are up and we have a list of things to tackle this year. Some of them are big…maybe too big. But we aren’t scared; or as they say in the south, “We ain’t skeered”. Being in total agreement with each other that it’s okay to fail is such a freeing feeling. It unties that knot in your stomach and gives you the confidence to tackle it head on.

So, we expect to fail this year. But at the end of the year, I’ll be able to look back and say, “Yeah, I did that!”.

Ain't Skeered Logo

The Real Value Of Risk

Lunch today was a myriad of conversation topics — mostly fanatical. Take the fictional billionaire who can’t spend all his money, or can he? It was reasoned that — after taxes, a private jet, yacht, homes at each touring destination, and to boot, your own private railway — it is very possible to spend all your billions. We very well could have been sitting around reading cards from a “Chat Pack”; in one ear, out the other. There was one thing said, however, that struck a chord, and that was, “…that’s why owners/investors make so much money…they take so much risk.”

Everyone nodded in agreement, except for myself. I couldn’t keep my mind from drifting back to our slipshod billionaire — let’s call him Harry the Billionaire, or Harry B for short. Take a startup company, let’s say it takes two million to get it up, running, and implemented. For most, two million is nothing to snarl at. It’s a significant amount of money and one could reason a hefty amount of risk for any one person to carry. What about for Harry B, though? This guy drops “bens” like he has a hole in his pocket. Two million dollars is not a ton of risk for Harry B.

Let’s make a couple of assumptions. In the proposed statement, since we don’t know anything about this company in which owners are making so much money, and because great risk is the reason they have so much money, it’s feasible for us to assume that this company is a startup. Since most startups generally are not making buckets of money to pay their owners/investors really well, it’s also feasible to assume that this “money” is really “company ownership” that is in hopes of one day becoming “money”.

So back to Harry B. Since he does not have great risk in this company, whereas others with less personal wealth would be at great risk, does that mean that Harry B should have a lesser share of company ownership that is more proportional to his risk investment?

While no one has the right to make money, they do have the right to the pursuit of happiness and the means thereof. If Harry B is starting the company and assuming all the risk, he’s certainly free to own how much ever he wants. Who are we to tell him otherwise? I suspect on the risk taking side of this, one can always spin the scenario to be a tautology in their favor.

In all this, there is a greater cause for meandering. That is, “by what should we measure risk?”. What I mean to say is, “should risk only be measured in financial terms?”. Think back to the gold rush. These pioneers left everything — friends, homes, livelihoods, in some cases family — in the pursuit of a dream or a big payoff much like our modern day business owners/investors. They risked it all; some giving of their very lives. They made the ultimate sacrifice, and many of them never saw a payoff. I would argue that this type of risk — personal sacrifice for a company — should not go without merit. This is worth far more than any amount of money one may put into their company.

If you are a business owner — especially of a startup — don’t overlook or belittle the personal sacrifice that is being made by the people who are helping you achieve your dreams. If you are paying someone, in most cases it’s fair to assume that you have greater financial means than them. This also means that whatever you value their sacrifice or risk investment at, it is probably multiplied by a factor of ten in their reality. Here’s an example: If I have a $50,000 net worth and you a $500,000 net worth, you may see me taking a pay cut of $5,000/year to come work for you worth 0.5% of your company. To you, what I’ve done for you is not that significant. But to the bearer of that risk investment, that $5,000 is greatly significant. It may mean he has to downsize, move to another neighborhood, put his children in a less-desirable school, forego health benefits, commute further and spend less time with his family, etc, etc.

Bottom line is, take the time to know the risk investment of those building your dreams. Don’t get so narrow-sighted on your own personal risk that you forget that others have made significant risks in other means than just financial.

I really like this pie chart that Quirky.com did here. Take some time to read their article. I hope it inspires you as it did me.

Company Ownership - Influence

Image copyright of Quirky.com

Generosity & Community

Generosity is defined as:

gen·er·os·i·ty/ˌjenəˈräsitē/

Noun:
  1. The quality of being kind and generous.
  2. The quality or fact of being plentiful or large.

As we reflect on generosity and community this week, we often talk about giving – mostly of our money. We can find references all throughout the Bible encouraging us to give of our possessions and money freely.

Another aspect of generosity is giving of our time. This one often hurts more than money. Often times we give of our money because it’s convenient. Maybe it’s not ideal, but it sure beats the heck out of getting our own hands dirty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about charity where you need both players – those brining the money in and those working in the field. I’m talking about the everyday grind.

Giving your neighbor a hand with some overgrown limbs; pulling over on the interstate to help someone change a tire; maybe taking an acquaintance’s kids to a ball game who couldn’t afford to go otherwise. Going out of your way to be generous with your time. Giving when there is no reward or immediate gratification. No rich friends to pat you on the back and tell you are doing the right thing. No awards, no names carved on a plaque, no recognition in the newspaper. Just plain unselfish, unbiased, generosity.

You can’t mimic someone unless you do as they do. You can’t call yourself a follower of Jesus by merely reading the Bible. You have to mimic what He did. Think of His generosity with His time. Mark 6:30-34 recounts Jesus and His disciples being hungry and tired ministering to the people. So much so that they tried to get away in a boat and get some peace and quiet. But the people saw where they were headed and ran on foot to the other side and met them there. There was no rest for the weary. Jesus could have told them to go away, but had compassion on them. He was generous with His time even when he just wanted some peace and quiet.

This is the same story where Jesus feeds  the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. You can’t be generous with what you don’t have. Here Jesus obtains what He needs to be generous. If we recount the definition of generous, it’s ironic to me that you can’t have one definition without the other. You can’t be generous unless you yourself have a generous portion. That generous portion may not be as big as someone else’s and it might be everything you have left, but if you don’t have it to give, you can’t give it.

If all of your time is accounted for, you can’t be generous with your time. If all of your money is accounted for in mortgages, hobbies, and cell phone data packages, you can’t be generous with it. Get some more or free some up!

So what about community? What does community have to do with generosity. Well, at first I had no idea. Then my wife was recounting the Benjamin Franklin Effect. It goes something like this: If you do a favor for someone, you are more likely to do a favor for them again than they are to return the favor. Similarly, if you harm someone, you are more likely to harm them again than they are to retaliate. As a political note or business note, if you can get an enemy to do a favor for you, they will most likely be open to the idea of doing or offering you a favor in the future.

This is described as cognitive dissonance in which someone changes their behaviors to reconcile conflicting thoughts and behaviors they may otherwise have of you. So by getting a rival to be generous to you by doing you a favor, you may be able to have them look more favorably on you. You’ve created a sense of community without giving anything  or spending millions in lobbying.

Turn the tables and let’s take an inward look at ourselves. Deuteronomy 15:10-11 God says that there will always be poor around us so He commands us to be “open-handed” – giving without grudge. Psalm 112:5 says that good will come to him who is generous and lends freely.

As infants, we naturally clench our fists. As toddlers we continue to clench our fists on the things we cherish as we add the word “mine” to our vocabulary. As adults we must learn how to open our hand and give freely. By doing so, even if it’s forced, we subject ourselves to the Benjamin Franklin Effect and we’ll be more likely to do it in the future without thought or reason and it will be easier to do. If we give to those we might otherwise not like, think they deserve what they have, think they are dirty, smelly, or just not our type, we’ll invoke cognitive dissonance and we may end up liking them by doing them a favor.

Who knew that a community would grow stronger, people who were enemies would be friends, and the poor would be taken care of by us opening our hands and giving of our time and money?

Think of ways this week in which you can be generous with not only your money, but also with your time.

 

God’s Ant Farm

 

From Evernote:

God’s Ant Farm

So we were talking today about faith and healing, and if it’s possible to obtain the gift of healing or grow that gift. How much of it is faith and how much of it is a gift; do both parties (giving and receiving) have to have enough faith for a miracle to happen.

Of course, we got the usual responses and “cop-outs” — it’s all about what God’s will is, does it bring Him glory, yes it takes faith, maybe we don’t have enough faith, “it’s a wicked and perverse generation that asks for a miracle”, is your heart in the right place, etc.
Before I go on to my point, I want to address the “wicked and perverse generation.” I believe that scripture is not meant to discourage Christians from asking or commanding a miracle. I think that speaks more to a people who say, “if there is a God, let him show us a sign, and then we’ll believe.”
I won’t comment on my beliefs on healing, I wanted to talk more to the statement, “whatever happens, it’s all for the glory of God.” That statement just really bothers me. It didn’t always. I use to be empowered by that statement. It gave me some comfort to think that no matter what happened, it was bringing glory to God. I have seen too much pain and too much suffering in the world to think that God is in anyway glorified by much of what goes on in the world.
I’ve come to accept the world, in some respects as God’s ant farm. For me the metaphor goes without saying that ants are amazing creatures.  Most of the time they go unnoticed. I’m sure as I walk around my house, I kill many of them without any thought to their existence. Occasionally, I like to sit and watch them. To watch them carry food, occasionally several ants will be carrying a piece so large that I wonder, “what’s the point.”  I have seen ants overcome a spider. I have seen ants drown from the rain. I’ve seen their tiresome lives wasted away building a dirt mound only to be torn down by a lawn mower and then rebuilt by a new generations (I believe the average life span is 45 days).
To sit and watch them, brings me great pleasure. So much, in fact, that after I make way on some of my other project, I plan to build a massive ant farm for my living room. Much of the pleasure that it brings me is to watch them struggle and to watch them build. I could easily move the large piece of food they struggle with for them, but then it wouldn’t be any fun for me to watch them turn in various directions as they pull and push against each other.
I see God’s interaction with us in much the same way. It’s hard for us to imagine how a cruel God wouldn’t just heal everyone if in fact there was such a God. I’m sure if ants had an awareness of us, they might ask a similar question as we plow over their home. I feel the scripture, “God sits in heaven and does whatever pleases Him”, quite fitting for my views on God.
As I sit and watch the ants, I can appreciate that God doesn’t do all the heavy lifting for me. I can appreciate that when I struggle, He’s somehow entertained as I fight through it. That in some way it brings Him pleasure to watch the underdog struggle to victory.
I will always gladly accept a helping hand and the occasional miracle is always welcomed, but if it doesn’t happen, I don’t say it’s happening for the glory of God.  I recognize it as entertainment for Him.
I’m not saying that God is not involved in our lives. I think God is minimally involved in our lives. I believe the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and angels are more so involved in our lives than God the Father. That said, it puts greater responsibility on us as a people to take care of the earth which He’s given us, our families, and our fellow man.

 

 

Google removes video that pokes fun at Mohammed

I applaud Google’s decision to block video that mocks Mohammed from Egypt and Libya…I’m sure soon to be Yemen. https://mg.co.za/article/2012-09-13-google-blocks-mohammed-film-clip-in-egypt-and-libya

Not matter how obtuse someone’s views are, they should still have the right to their opinions and be able to express them.

My deepest sympathies go out to the family of the Ambassador in Libya and his colleagues.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t an American embassy considered American soil? Wouldn’t invading an embassy be the same as invading our home country? Just a side thought.

These protestors are terrorists. They are trying to insite fear in people that says, “If you make fun of our religion, we’ll hurt you.”

I just don’t understand the mentality that says, if you make fun of my god, I’ll kill you. Have I lost all honor? I think I’m just more of the type that would feel sad for you to make fun of someone else’s G[g]od in a real condescending way. SNL is an exception :) I’m also confident that if God was offended, He could take care of Himself. Yet, these people feel the need to defend their god as if he is not strong enough. I should insert a note here and say that the underlying basis according to CNN is not a poking fun of Allah, but rather that Mohammed’s face was displayed (which is supposedly against the Koran, though Iran, Asia, and Turkey have displayed him for centuries) and then the video showed him to be vile.

They are such a conspiracy driven society. I’m sure most of them have not even seen the video that are protesting. It certainly doesn’t help that it was an American-Israeli that created the video…just fuel for the fire. Their hatred for Jews is uncanny.

Calm down people. If you don’t want to see Mohammed’s face, then don’t watch the video. Everybody’s beliefs get made fun of at some point, it hurts, sure, but you are not an exception. The mass majority of people have never seen this video and could care less about it. You are letting one man…one single person…get the better of you and make you look like fools.

In the beginning was the Word

As always, most of my posts are late night thoughts. Many times they do not necessarily reflect my true views, but are rather a thought process.

Had a chat with a friend the other night. They almost always take some road down religion lane. I think often times he brings things up to provoke a reaction; that is part of the joy of conversing with him.

We talked about God and monotheism, what my beliefs were relating to God. If you are a close friend and we’ve talked at any great lengths about my beliefs, you’ll find my views of God to be very complex. An outsider who does not know me, might mistakenly say I bordered on agnosticism. I’d like to write more about my thoughts on God and His role in our lives and the galaxy at a point in the future. Tonight, I’d like to write out some random thoughts on Jesus and His role.

Christians claim him to be the Son of God. Some might go so far as to say that Jesus was always God’s Son. That is not my view. I have always thought Jesus to be a part of the God head. God the Father as the head. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to make up the Godhead. Three distinct individuals with three very different roles.  So that’s the basis of my belief. Here is where my mind wanders….

What if Jesus did not exist in our likeness form prior to coming to earth. The Bible talks about Jesus as being the Word. It also references the Word in this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What if the word Logos there refers to the actual spoken word of God. One could argue that at this point, Jesus did not exist, but simply in essence was a thought of Gods waiting to be spoken into existence.

Genesis says, “Come let us make man in our own image.”  Many believe this to be a reference to the trinity. There is no basis for this other than to point out that there are other beings that are of the image of God, if we could so quantify Him.

Perhaps this reference to more than one being implies the Holy Spirit only. One could gather that when God wanted to save man from their sins so he could have communication with them freely, God spoke the Word into existence and impregnated Mary, thus this would have been the first time Jesus would have been in existence, either physically or spiritually.   He would still be God’s only begotten Son, it would simply be through man, and not that He always was…other than having always existed as the Word, just not spoken yet.

This would create an interesting dynamic in that it would allow to see how God could allow Jesus to go through what he did (this ties into some of my agnostic views), yet still love Him as His own. Jesus would be human and God – fully human, and fully God. It also gives light into sections where Jesus says, “why do you call me good? No one is good except God the Father.”  There is a mutual respect for His Father and recognizes His place as a Son, rather than being God one in the same.

I’m not sure what the significance would be if you believed one way or the other. For myself, I think it helps to understand how Jesus, being God, could…or even want to intercede for us before God – who I honestly believe would rather wipe us out sometimes and be done with this little project of His.

Whenever I think about things like this, I always think about space, and how absolutely insanely massive it is. It make me think how big God must be and even if He does have billions of other “worlds” and galaxies and multiverses, to think that he might actually care about me, or that He even cared about me enough to allow angels to work on my behalf, it is absolutely humbling to me.

I know that this post took some huge liberties and assumed that you believed some things already, for that…well, you either believe or you don’t.

The inhibition of large government. Where did my freedom go?

While speeding down the road one night in a taxi – blasting the horn, whipping around semi-trucks, turning the head-lights off, yelling at anyone that didn’t comply with the driver’s demands – we passed 5 kids ranging from ages around 5-13 speeding down the highway on a single four-wheeler.  Shortly after, a moped passes us with a man and his wife sitting sideways holding her baby in her arms….a moped!

For those of you who have lived in Egypt, this is an all too familiar scene.  It’s not uncommon to see 5,6, or 7 year old children racing their dirt bikes down the street, dodging holes in the pavement.  My thoughts here are not on safety but rather on the freedom that allows these things to happen. I would argue that in many ways, Egypt is more free than the United States.

I’ve recently put these thoughts in front of my friends and wife, only to be disregarded as absurd. So instead of making a comparison between the United States and Egypt – which would most likely be a comparison of religious freedom – let’s consider the U.S.

First let’s look at some of the freedom’s that we enjoy:

  • Voting. Yay, so we can vote for the people that represent us. Do they…represent us?  I might feel more confident in saying they represented the population if they actually spent time in the trenches with the everyday worker, if there weren’t such things as earmarks, if there weren’t lobbyists persuading the minds that govern.  The world is a complicated place and I learn that more and more each day and decisions that may seem obvious may not be so obvious once you have all the information at hand. That withstanding, I would not say that the government of the United States represents me or my beliefs. Neither could the 38%-53% that never show up to vote. So you have a right, and you don’t even use it, or bother to educate yourself enough to have a valid opinion? At the very least watch Stephen Colbert and turn out for the next election and use the freedoms that you do have.
  • Religious freedoms. As long as I don’t impose that religion on others by quietly reading my bible (or other religious book) in school or quietly bowing my knee and praying to my God (or gods) for my safety and the well being of all the players during a game, America forbid that. Does religious freedom simply mean that I can believe whatever I want to believe and put up a building to practice that belief in? Those beliefs aren’t protected other than to the extent that people don’t get hurt.
  • Freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly.  Uh, really? Now, I understand that there are probably a hundred laws that are being broken during the wall-street protests, and whether I agree with them or not is a different story, but would they be given the freedom of assembly if they applied for a permit? I would think not. So our freedom of speech and assembly is only valid when it’s convenient for the government. We saw these freedoms challenged even more during the SOPA and PIPA bills that went before Congress recently.
  • Right to bear arms. Sorry for the image, I couldn’t help myself. I don’t own a weapon, but I do defend anyone’s right to protect themselves, their family, and their property. While the NRA is a little nutso at times, they have a done a wonderful job at protecting this freedom.
  • I’m not sure that rights really fall under freedoms, but we do have the right to a speedy trial. I have a case that has been going through the court system for four years now. That is about 1.6% of the time that the United States has actually been in existence as we know it today. If we stuck with that same timeline and the United States was 2000 years old, that would mean I could expect my case to be in the court system for 32 years.  Hardly speedy.
  • Right to a trial by jury. Bleh. What good is a jury if they can’t get all the information they need and people on the stand can only answer questions without elaborating on what they recalled.
  • What are some more freedoms and what are your thoughts?

My list of freedoms we don’t have consist of nuances that I’m inconvenienced by in life or by things that I feel I should be able to do should I ever desire to do them. I can hardly be objective. Simple things like:

  • Not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle or bike. If I understand the risks involved (which there is a risk just getting on a motorcycle) and don’t mind if my head gets smashed in, I should be allowed to ride my motorcycle with no helmet. Now, before you go saying, “Yeah, that’s right”, you also have to understand about externalities. If you choose to ride your motorcycle with no helmet, you get in an accident, and the ambulance has to come out only to find you are dead and your family can’t pay the medical bills, your externality is that you have just helped to increase medical care by being irresponsible. You have in fact, even unknowingly, caused harm to someone else by raising the cost of medical expenses. So understand that when I list these things, you have to be able to afford any and all externality expenses and harm you may cause to someone else.
  • On second thought, I won’t list a bunch of things here. I’ll let you fill in the blanks or comment with the freedoms you feel have been taken from you.

We have seen many changes and restrictions on the freedoms that we do have.  What will the country look like in a thousand years if we continue to let the government run it’s course? Whether it means well or not, it’s headed down a dark path.  Remember, the United States is only 236 years old. A lot has changed in that time. Some good and some bad.

Gerald R. Ford wrote, “A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take everything you have….”

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The course of history shows that as government grows, liberty decreases.”

The government imposes restrictions on us for various reasons – lobbying, safety, human rights, health, etc – and with each passing rule imposed, the government grows and our freedom and liberty decreases.

In the end, we sacrifice freedom for safety. Unfortunately, that idea of safety just compounds on itself. Meaning, people never think to take away safety regulations that inhibit fun or growth. They simply compound rule on rule, choking our freedoms tighter and tighter.