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. 

José Andrés Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

Today, it was confirmed that Chef José Andrés was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a Maryland congressman. 

I couldn’t think of someone more deserving. In an era that’s void of most strong moral leadership, Andrés has been the example for us all. His non-profit World Central Kitchen has been serving the communities hit by natural disasters, like the hurricane in Puerto Rico and the forest fires in California. 

Watch Andrés’s Twitter account. It will make you feel good about humanity again. 

Time to get to work

We no longer have a government unified on rubber stamping Donald Trump’s delusions. It’s time to get to work. What should the agenda be?

David Brooks brilliantly puts it

On the other hand, we could put the Trump soap opera off to the side and pay attention to actual Americans and actual solutions. We could acknowledge that we are an evenly divided country. We could build the bipartisan governing coalitions and agendas suited to that reality.

Our addiction to oil

In Thomas Friedman’s column today, he points out how we have to pick between bad and worse decisions in the Middle East because of our addiction to oil.

Rather than choosing between bad allies and bad enemies, we should be working frantically to do the one thing that is in our whole country’s security interest, financial interest and moral interest — launch a Manhattan Project to get America off oil by 2025.

It is our addiction to oil that funds so much of the bad behavior out of the Middle East. It is our addiction to oil that forces us to look the other way at a murder most vile. And it is our addiction to oil that leads us to think it is actually O.K. to trade a call for justice for a purchase order of arms.

Real leadership is about looking at the long term vs giving us all a sugar high.

American Values for Sale

The publisher at the Washington Post has called out President Trump. The President is supporting Saudi Arabia amidst their role in killing Jamal Khashoggi because they’re investing in the American economy.

Throughout this crisis, the president has maintained that he’s looking after our “national interests.” But Trump’s response doesn’t advance the United States’ interests — it betrays them. It places the dollar values of commercial deals above the long-cherished American values of respecting liberty and human rights. And it places personal relationships above the United States’ strategic relationships. For more than 60 years, the U.S.-Saudi partnership has been an important one based on trust and respect; Trump has determined that the United States no longer requires honesty and shared values from its global partners.