Shaping Work Around Your Life

I’ve been working from home for the last six-plus years. It’s allowed me to shape work around my life vs shaping my life around my work.

I can get just all of my work done and I can have lunch with my family or play a quick catch with my son in the backyard.

I resonate with this from Charlie Warzel

I began to use the privilege of working from home to prioritize balance, not productivity. I often work out or run a few errands in the middle of the day — and use that missed hour or so in the evening to catch up on work that requires more focus when things are quiet. And when work does slow down, I try not to spin my wheels: I go for a walk, I play with my dogs. If something pops up at night, it doesn’t feel as soul-crushing when you haven’t spent the day chained to the computer.

A call to arms…

Seems like one thing we’ve been missing is a national (and really global call to arms). During the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy said

My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can see precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead–months in which our patience and our will will be tested–months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.

During this pandemic, it’s going to be difficult, dangerous, full of sacrifice and surely test our resolve. BUT… “the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.”

These are the words that we want to hear from our national and global leaders. It’s a call to arms to prepare for something big.

When I Need Protection…

There are existential threats to my life that loom so large that by my own will I can’t resolve or safeguard my family from them.

I can’t stop a terrorist attack. I can’t stop climate change. As we’ve seen, while I can play my part, I can’t own my own stop a pandemic.

There are BIG global problems that need a bigger solutions. There are big problems that need bigger resources to be marshaled in order to fully resolve them.

The hope is that the government will step in a lot… or at least most of these circumstances. They’re there to help mitigate that risk. They can see the problems that I can’t see… they can marshal the resources that I can’t marshal.

The challenging part is… the man at the top of the government has been creating more risk than mitigating it.

He’s suggesting unproven drugs that may do harm.

He’s suggesting people inhale bleach.

Wear a mask.

According to Vox

…in April, researchers at the University of Hong Kong and in Europe calculated that if 80 percent of a population can be persuaded to don masks, transmission levels would be cut to one-twelfth of what you’d have in a mask-less society. However, that study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

You could have Covid-19, not realize, cough, and give the disease to someone else. Best way to prevent that is to wear a damn mask.

Your personal actions have an affect on the public health. So, it needs to be regulated.

Vox has a fantastic video that dives into it more deeply.

Happy Birthday Mom!

In the Nehemiah 8:10, the people in the Old Testament we’re told to celebrate “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Today, we celebrate my mom’s birthday. I’m so blessed by her and the joy that she exudes. She’s so firmly rooted in God’s grace and provision for her life that she’s confident in His strength. 

Growing up, my mom always had a song on her heart. At some point during my teenage years, I didn’t always appreciate my mom’s singing. Now, I wish I could hear it more often. I find myself singing to my kids the same songs my mom sang to me. And nothing makes me happier than hearing my children sing. My daughter would sing non-stop if she could. In them, I hear my mom’s voice and her joy.

Mom, I’ll never stop singing.

My mom’s joy in the Lord has always shown through in both the good times and the hard times. One memory when I was growing up, I was really young and going grocery shopping with my mom. I was likely sitting in the front of the cart, chowing down on a bagel, as it would keep me occupied while my mom shopped. It was the middle of the day, so I’m guessing my sister was in school.

All of a sudden, my dad showed up of nowhere. He’d just been laid off from his job. My mom looked at him and knew exactly what had happened. Her response, “Hey Wes, what would you like for dinner?” She trusted that God would provide, and he did.

So, today… mom… we celebrate you. Every day, you show me about what it means to live a life of joy and to find my strength in the Lord and His grace. You show me what it means to have the heart of a servant. I’m so thankful that I get to be your son.

Remember who you are.

In this current climate, I’ve been thinking a lot about political parties. They can be a great way of finding like-minded people to advance a common principle or ideology.

It becomes dangerous when people adopt a political party so tightly that it’s their identity. A person’s self-worth gets tied to whether the party wins or loses. It leaves a party susceptible to outside actors who help you win but at the cost of forgoing the principles, you held dear.

One of my dad’s favorite sayings is “remember who you are.” Oh, how easy it is to forget.

I like winning. I like power. I like getting recognized and having people say nice things about me. It feels great. But it’s ultimately not worth it if it means forgoing your integrity. The ends never justify the means. Plus, winning, power and recognition will never give you the real joy you’re looking for.

Look at the headlines… we have a President of the United States who purposely uses racist language to stir up his base and to preserve both his power and power of his political party. At one of his rallies, the crowd chanted “Send her back”, in regards to a foreign-born member of Congress. What sad times that we live in where this doesn’t receive universal condemnation?

We’ve forgotten who we are.

“Love your neighbor” doesn’t come with an asterisk saying it doesn’t apply to the opposite political party. “For God so love the world…” does not just mean the people that look, talk, and act like you. It means the. whole. world.

I’m so blessed to have incredible parents who’ve instilled those Biblical values in me from the onset. There are many others who’ve played influential roles in how my Biblical principles play out in the public square. It pains me to see some of them stay silent.

We can’t stay silent. We can’t let this behavior be normalized. This way of thinking is a type of cancer. “Oh, I can just cut this corner to achieve some greater end.”

All too often the news is filled with another Harvey Weinstein-type figure that has risen to incredible power but on the backs of terrorizing someone else. It all starts with compromising their values for some ends that starts to eat their soul one bite a time.

When will you stand up? When will you speak out? I don’t want this type of morality to infect another generation.

Unlike what the President says, speaking out against those in power actually makes you more American. The founders sought out to create a “more perfect Union.” The founding of our country was an act of rebellion against the British.

And don’t get caught up in some false choice. Objecting with the current status of our political leadership doesn’t say anything about your political party. While I don’t stand with the Republican party because of the Trump administration, objecting to it doesn’t make me a liberal Democrat.

Stand up for what’s right regardless of whether it’s politically expedient. Remember you who are.

The swamp is getting drained

In his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump started using the slogan “drain the swamp.” It was a rallying cry for those tired of the rich and powerful in DC getting more power at the expense of everyone else.

While most of the time Trump enables the swamp, his Justice Department has made some incredible moves to “drain the swamp.” And they’re not just going after the swamp creatures of DC. They’re looking for anyone that’s trying to use their power to tip the scales in their favor.

Most recent example is billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein who was charged for sex trafficking.

The newly released charges concern an alleged multi-state sex trafficking ring Epstein operated between 2002 and 2005 with the help of his employees and associates.

Donald Trump is a friend of Epstein’s. He’s been quoted as saying “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Epstein was recently charged in Florida but got a lenient deal by then US Attorney and now Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta.

Epstein sounds like the epitome of a swamp creature. Excited to see him behind bars for the rest of his natural life.

But that’s not all the swamp draining news today. GOP super donor Elliott Broidy is being investigated by the feds for using his status with the Trump campaign & inauguration to illegally attract foreign business.

They say money and power don’t make you evil. It just amplifies who you are.

Well, as capitalism has become more unrestrained, we’ve seen the growth of the rich. More people know power than ever before. We need a rule of law and independent Justice Department that’ll hold the rich and powerful to account for their actions. It’s good to see it work today, even within the Trump administration.

Finding My Point of View

For a few years on CNBC, there was a show on called Restaurant Startup. A series of chefs would pitch concepts to a panel of judges, they’d do pop-up restaurants, and a finalist would get investment from the judges.

Famous restauranteur and show judge Joe Bastianich in multiple shows asked the chef contestants “what’s your point of view?” After their answer, he’d say “A restaurant without a point of view is a diner.” He’s saying that if you don’t want to be generic then you need to have something about your food that’s different and that you want to share with the world.

For whatever reason, this really resonated with me. As a marketer, when I’m trying to help educate the market about a product, I’m searching for its point of view. What’s unique about the product and what it’s saying about how it wants to change the world?

I also think about my own point of view. I feel like I have things to say. I feel like I was put on this earth with a calling to big things… to change the world.

I’m in a funny season of life. People have started to look to me for advice as much as I look to others. Of course, I really want to help. It forces me to think about what believe. It forces me to crystallize my point of view.

I’ve thought a lot recently about discipline. I want to create a discipline around sharing more point of view more regularly here on this blog. I need to practice writing. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

To top it all off, in order to stay relevant, I need to be producing content. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Document. Don’t create!”

She was right under my house.

On Tuesday, May 28th, it’s the 8th anniversary of marrying my wife Lauren. On these milestone holidays (i.e. birthdays), I get really contemplative. I think about the story that God is telling through our lives. In this case, it’s the story that he’s telling through the life of Lauren and me together. I look back today feeling blessed beyond measure that Lauren is my wife, the family we’ve built, and by his grace become vessels of his love to our community and world.

But the background… God was building our story together even before we knew each other.

It all started when I graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in August 2006. Later that year, I accepted a job in Washington, DC at the Library of Congress doing web strategy.

DC is a funny place. It’ll always have a special place in my heart. Every person you meet wants to change the world. They work in Congress or a non-profit. They all wore the same suits and got the same haircut. Or at least that’s what it felt like to me. In that way, I felt like a misfit. I wore corduroy suit coats, not Brooks Brothers. I opted for the beard vs going for the standard DC clean cut. I also had a passion for how entrepreneurialism and technology could change the world and not Congressional policy.

While I went out and had the occasional girlfriend, looking back, nothing had that forever feeling. At in hindsight, I wanted to be with someone more than wanting to be with the right person. I wasn’t ready.

While I wasn’t investing myself in a significant other, I dove into the technology and entrepreneurial community of Washington DC. I’d go to a couple of meetups a week. I’d co-host my own gatherings and un-conferences to bring like-minded individuals together. And while during that season I’d probably preferred to find miss right, the connections I made and skills learned are still paying off more than a decade later.

It all changed May of 2010. I was at a church party at a friends house. I went to a Rwandan Anglican Church, which was mostly 20 somethings. I was in the backyard and headed to the bathroom where there was beer in the bathtub. And there she was. Lauren.

We both had been going to the same church for a while and it wasn’t a big church. I swear I had never seen here before. But she was there. I really think that prior to that party I wasn’t ready to see her. God showed her to me at that right moment. And what I was about to find out was that our story was intertwined in ways I couldn’t have imagined. But we’ll get to that.

So I met Lauren on the way to get a beer out of a bathtub. It was 5 or 6 at night. So the light was peering through the trees as it was starting to decline in the night sky. The light surrounded her as if she glowed. From the first moment, it was as if God was saying, “She’s special. Pay attention.”

In addition to finding Lauren very attractive, she talked about traveling the world on a year-long mission trip. She was into new technology companies. I remember talking about Airbnb. She had just used it on a recent trip to Boston. The company was no more than a year or two old. No one had heard of it and most thought it was nuts to stay inside someone else’s house. Similar to me, she had an early iPhone when most people thought it was crazy to spend so hundreds of dollars on a phone. Suffice it to say, she was different like me. My interest was piqued.

Later that night, we became friends on Facebook because that’s what ya did then. Ha!

Fast forwarding a few steps…

Well, I invited her to my birthday party which was a few weeks later. It was at a beer bar in DC, in the basement. I invited Lauren along with a bunch of other friends. Most of the night, I bounced around. At the end of the night, I sat down at the table Lauren was at. A mutual friend of ours Laura was there too.

The new iPhone 4 was about to come out. Laura parlayed the convo to the app Bump, where you could bump phones together and exchange numbers. She slyly suggested that Lauren and I show her how the app worked by bumping our phones. I didn’t have the app, quickly realized that I was about to get Lauren’s number, downloaded the app, connected to go out on a date. We’ve been talking every day since.

At some point, she started checking out my family on Facebook (and vice versa). She noticed that my sister and she had many mutual friends. Prior to DC, Lauren lived in Indianapolis. She went to Butler University. My sister worked as a nurse at a hospital in Indy.

Well, my sister lived not that far from the Butler campus. Lauren lived 4 or 5 blocks down the street from my sister. They went to the same church. Lauren’s closest church friends lived across the street from my sister. One of Lauren’s closest church friends was renting a room in my sister’s house. Coincidentally, my sister tried to set me up with that housemate.

Like a good brother, I visited my sister as often as I could. I went to my sister’s church. Chances are Lauren must have been there at least one of the times. Or… Lauren was across the street visiting friends when I was at my sister’s house.

Lauren was under my nose. God had her picked for me and our paths crossed, even before I was even ready to see or be aware that she was there.

As those of you that are married know, it’s a change to go from me to us. It takes a grace-filled covenant partnership with that other person. When you let someone else into that circle, it exposes all of your weaknesses and shortcomings that you’ve been hiding but in a way that makes you really want to work and grow together.

I thank the Lord for weaving Lauren and me together even before we met. I can’t imagine a better partner for life. Every moment has been a blessing that I don’t deserve.

Before I met Lauren, there were certainly those moments where I wondered if I’d ever meet her. Would I have to change who I am in order for it to happen? (There was that time I really got into running and the time I got really into trying to learn to play guitar.)

If you’re struggling, I hope that Lauren’s and my origin story together will demonstrate how we have a big God. He’s bigger than your circumstances. He loves you and has a plan for your life. By his grace, he can take any sadness or imperfections and turn it into something beautiful.

Sump Cold Brew Cans

At the end of April 2019, St Louis-based coffee roaster & shop Sump Coffee announced a partnership with 4 Hands Brewing Company to make a line of canned cold brew coffee. 

Today, I finally tracked down a can. They sell them at Hello Juice in South St Louis, which was on my way as I was running Saturday errands with the kids. 

If you haven’t had Sump Coffee before, it’s amazing. Sump owner Scott & team do a masterful job of roasting coffee beans and brewing coffee that tells the coffee’s story.

I know that may sound weird but… for the longest time, I always thought of coffee was one note. It was dark and tasted like I imagined what it’d be like to lick cement. 

When you go to a coffee shop like Sump, you see that coffee can have depth. You don’t need the flavored creamer that artificially tastes like caramel or strawberries. The coffee itself has notes of strawberry or caramel. It’s crazy.  It’s like drinking great wine or a fine craft beer.

Suffice it to say, I had high expectations when getting the cold brew can. I’m happy to report back that it met and exceeded my expectations.  When I get a cold brew coffee from Starbucks, I feel like I drink it pretty quickly. With this, you really want to sit and ponder each sip because there’s a lot going on in your mouth. It’s also incredibly refreshing. You can’t beat the cold brew method on a warm day. (Of course, today is cold-ish and rainy in St Louis. ) 

At $5 for the can of Sump Cold Brew Coffee, it’s not cheap. To put it into perspective though, a venti cold brew at Starbuck is going to run you practically the same price. This is exponentially better.