Nope, I’m not awesome.

The truth is, I think I am awesome.  But I am not awesome.

Someone wiser than me recently explained to me that there are two extreme attitudes we can have in life.  This is my ultra-simple paraphrase.

1) We are awesome.  Everyone owes us.

2) We are not awesome.  We owe everyone.

There’s a famous Bible verse that reads “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first”.  Jesus lived that way, stooping so low as to wash his disciples feet.

I’m not like Jesus.  I don’t think I would be comfortable washing my wife’s feet.  I expect her to pick up my laundry.  I don’t always remember to take out the trash or fill up the dishwasher.

Even in writing this post, I think I’m awesome.  But I’m not awesome.  I really don’t want to wash someone’s stinky feet.  I just want to be comfortable in my own little world where everyone owes me.  That’s why I’m not awesome.

God’s working on that.

Decisions.

I’m sitting in a Hobby Lobby parking lot right now, watching my daughter sleep while my wife shops for the portrait studio. We just spent the last couple hours talking about a decision we might make.

Decisions are often difficult for me, especially around unfamiliar things.

My wife has helped me get past my fear of ordering from a menu, at least at most places. I still don’t do well with the unfamiliar though. I’ll often order exactly the same thing over and over because I know it’s safe.

I did the same thing with my first car. It was dorky, but when it died I got another one almost the same. It was all I knew.

I talked about decision-making with a wise person once, and he told me often the best choice is the most difficult one, because that’s when you learn the most.

I would add this; that’s when I learn to trust God the most.

We went to a new restaurant last Sunday, and I ordered seafood. It was refreshing to do something new. And it was good too!

After two super dorky cars, my third car was a Camaro.  I learned that doing something new, making a different decision, can be rewarding and enjoyable sometimes.

Church Matters.

Mission Trip: Shooting in the streets of Juarez.

One of the complex parts of my life has been sorting out what it means to be a Christian and a communicator, and how church plays into that.

I’ve had many opportunities to use my talents and resources to help churches with media content.

I’ve also experienced friction because I am also a father and husband, and want to lead my family well, which I believe means being part of a church. That can be challenging when I become overcommitted on Sunday mornings.

We’ve experienced a lot of church turmoil, but it’s been punctuated with times of peace and connection.

I see a lot of potential for future work in partnership with churches, but I’m still trying to figure out how to realize that potential, so I feel some inner turmoil over that as well.

My temptation with church is to focus on me, when in reality, my focus should be on Christ and his work for us. Not sure why it’s so hard to remember that sometimes.

Business Matters.

The perfect mixture of family + business.

I remember my very first business venture.  I partnered with my older brother.  We had a red flyer wagon, and once a week we walked up and down our block collecting recycling bottles and cans from our neighbors.  Then we’d load up the van and cash in at the recycling center for a little spending cash.

When I was a little older I ran a paper route once a day, which gave me at least a solid hour of daydreaming (I may have missed a house once in a while).  I had a dream of opening up a Lego toy store.  I knew I would outgrow the toys someday, and that was the only solution I could come up with to keep playing with Legos as I got older.

I didn’t plan to be a business owner but when I graduated from college, I started freelancing here and there on evenings and weekends. Eventually my dreams became Center Street Productions, which was a solid side gig until my wife and I jumped into full-time self-employment in 2009.

Like starting a family, I had a lot of romantic ideas.  I ran into harsh realities pretty fast, but God’s been faithful despite my mistakes and shortcomings.

Surviving as a self-employed freelance videographer is a challenge. It takes a lot of focus and a lot of faith. I hope I can continue to do it well!

Family Matters.

My beautiful wife!

I used to think I knew how to love my wife and raise my kids. I was an expert on the subject.

Then I got married and realized I have no idea how to do either one.

I have spent the last 8 years of my life learning how selfish and lazy of a person I really am. I had no idea I was so self-centered.

The thing that keeps me coming back to make an effort again and again is that my wife and kids love me no matter what. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but they’ve always been forgiving and loving.

The truth is, I don’t love my family enough, starting with my wife. She’s truly amazing, and I’m determined to focus on how to love her more.

Focus, Phil!

I have three main areas of influence in my life right now.

1) My family

2) My church

3) My business

I’ve spent my adult life trying to figure out how those three areas fit together. It’s been a challenge. It’s a little crazy sometimes.

Then sometimes I’ll forget all three of those things and try something completely different that doesn’t fit anywhere.

‘Focus, Phil!’ is a challenge to myself to remember the important things and focus on what really matters in life.

Can I change the world?

I had a dream when I was a kid.  I wanted to change the world.  I wanted to be BIG, I wanted to be FAMOUS, and I thought I could do it.  I was DIFFERENT, I was BETTER than everybody else, and no-one could stop me.

Somewhere in the middle of going to college, getting married, buying a house, having kids, working, going to church, starting a business… I learned I’m not as cool as I thought I was and the world is a lot bigger than I thought.  I don’t know how to reach everyone in my town, let alone my country or my world.  I also know that even if I could reach everyone, I don’t have a big enough ANSWER that anything I have to share can possibly help everyone.

So I’m not here to change the whole world.  I’m just not that awesome.  However I can make small changes that impact the people around me, so I’m going to focus on that instead and see what happens!

Facing the Challenge of Growth

I have terrible troubleshooting skills. I think I’m missing a logic receptor in my brain somewhere. My tendency, when trouble brews, is to want to go back to the beginning, scratch everything, and start over with something completely different. Sometimes that’s a good idea, but I’ve begun to realize that if I can push through the initial challenge, often I can find a solution.

It’s been a process. I started thinking about this concept when I worked for Mark at ATS Acoustics. I had the unique perspective of seeing his acoustic panel business grow from nothing to the successful operation that it is today.

I remember an early challenge we ran into was a question of whether our burlap-covered acoustical panels would meet construction fire codes. We had some churches that wanted to use our products but we couldn’t guarantee they would be fire resistant.

If it was me, I think I would have given up. We didn’t have an answer. But I watched Mark work through the problem, against many challenges, eventually building a computerized machine that solved the issue completely.

As someone who probably would have given up after the first challenge or two, I can respect that.

One of the challenges we have as a business is that we are almost completely a service business. We’ve been blessed to have the work we’ve had, but our ability to grow as a business is hampered unless we can grow and stabilize our service business to the point where 1) we have enough work to hire other people to work with us, or 2) create and market a product, or 3) Refine our business to the point where it works more or less as is, or 4) Something I haven’t thought of yet.

I think the biggest thing holding me back is confidence in my ability to solve this problem. I have a growing trail of things I’ve given up on. I don’t know if any of those things would have worked given the appropriate resources or time, and don’t know if I should have dropped them. So I steadily lose confidence as I leave behind more and more projects that I’ve tried and have been unable to bring to completion.

Mark solved his fire-rating problem. I should be able to figure this one out too.

Short or Long?

My 6 year old daughter has been learning the concept of time. “How long will it take to get there?” she’ll ask. My answer, “Oh about thirty minutes.” “Daddy, is that short or long?”

I never know how to answer that. Depending on what you’re doing, that’s a really short time or a really long time. 30 minutes is a long time to sit at a stop light, but a really short time to pay a mortgage. For a 6 year old stuck in a car seat, it can be really long.

One thing we encourage our girls to do when we’re driving is to enjoy the scenery. Right now is harvest time, and they love checking out the big tractors and talking about corn and soybeans, or animals that they see, or whatever. Sometimes that passes the time for them.

Like our car rides, the summer of 2011 lasted forever for me. We were behind on our bills, business was slow, and we were having trouble with our day-to-day obligations. It was a slow, painful ride that I don’t want to do again anytime soon.

One particularly difficult weekend that summer, a friend brought us some food to help us out. I had found a forgotten box of pancake mix in the cupboard, and she just happened to slip some fresh blueberries in with the rest of the groceries.

As we ate our blueberry pancakes that night, I had a chance to stop and enjoy the scenery. And we made it through the summer.

Bootstrap Recipe

The small business experience for us has been all about how to take ‘nothing’ and create something.  A lot of people call it bootstrapping.

If this was a cookbook, our recipe would look a bit like this:

Ingredients list:
– Time
– Health
– Character
– Imagination
– Credit
– Problem solving
– Willingness to learn
– Supportive community
– Faith in God

I’m sure I’ve left out some things, but you’ll notice a complete lack of tangibles.  Our only capital was ourselves, our friends around us, and God.

When we feel outclassed and outspent by people around us, we remember that even when our bank account is a big fat zero, we still have something to work with.  We have big dreams, and complaining about what we don’t have (although we do that sometimes) doesn’t get us there!  Sometimes we feel like we have nothing, like the day I took this screenshot of my bank account, but the truth is we have everything we need to get to the next step.

Your recipe might be a little different than ours, but when discouragement hits, we break out the bootstrap recipe.