Loss Judging

In the arena of business, I’ve met a lot of people who start off conversations by asking future employees or other entrepreneurs how much money they’ve earned. The discussion could include additional possessions, like cars, boats and houses, as if these are medals awarded for valor on the field of capitalist battle.

But asking someone how much money they made doesn’t give you an accurate picture of the whole story. So I prefer another question.

“How much money have you lost?”

Knowing how much money someone has lost not only reveals to me how much net worth they might have, but also the level of risk that they’re willing to live with. Further, if someone has lost a considerable amount of money, or has endured numerous life-failures, and yet they’re still sitting in front of me as a successful person, that tells me a great deal about their individual fortitude and personal character. They’re willing to put things on the line, pay the price if they go wrong, and work themselves out of the hole.

I call this loss judging.

Losing money, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, is never fun. It’s not something we like to brag about either. Who would? There’s certainly something to be said for steering clear of people who habitually tank institutions, organizations or themselves. But when considering a new hire or partnership, assuming the person has something to bring to the table, knowing what they’ve had to go through to get where they are helps paint a more clear picture of who they are.

The same assessment can also hold true in other aspects of life. Much of the time we write off people who’ve made poor decisions, finding themselves at the bottom of the social ladder. How many times have we passed homeless people who actually have degrees in a highly prestigious fields? And yet we give jobs to young 20-something’s fresh out of college, with no experience whatsoever, mind you, and a mountain of debt.

I judge someone who’s lost a loved one—as a different example—as someone who knows how to endure grief. They’ve had to stare mortality in the face and move on, most often at great expense. For those who’ve lost family “out of time,” meaning a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter, I have even more respect.

Perfect track records can tell you a lot about people, sure. But loss judging not only tells you who a person is, but who’ve they’ve fought not to be. It tells you they’re still in the game. That matters.

Not all loss is bad. And not all gains are good. Our job as leaders is to try and perceive the value of people sitting across from us so we all can move forward in strength. The more scars a person carries, the less your team may have to suffer.


Coldstone Creamery Coming to Watertown

Yep. It’s true.

Northern Ice Cream Company LLC is putting its newest addition to the ever expanding list of Watertown eateries right beside CiCi’s Pizza in the Stateway Plaza on Arsenal St. Need another excuse to get fat? Yeah, me neither. But who can’t resist pizza and ice cream?

With final approval and permitting just in from the City of Watertown, construction will begin Monday with a grand opening slated for late-May. It’s yet another way we believe we’re bringing families together in a fun, safe environment, as well as creating more jobs in northern New York. (If the national government truly wants to help us create more jobs, they sure could ease up on regulations and obscene taxation).

You’re welcome.


Reinvention by Fire


I’m more than halfway through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs on audio CD. My mom gave it to me for Christmas and I’m just now getting to it.

I always had a lot of respect for Steve, but I had no idea just how diverse, full, liberal, adventurous, ironic, and trial-bound his life truly was. Which makes me respect him all the more.

I’m sure many of my observations will come out here over the next few weeks, from spiritual remarks to business principles to family life. But the thing that’s struck me the most – the thing that’s actually had me saying “Wow” out loud – was the manner in which Steve Jobs embraced moments of blatant defeat, both personally and corporately, and found ways to reinvent himself unto success.

Some by choice, others through what my father called “the great sieve of life,” Steve confronted personal demons that caused him to implode as a twenty- and thirty-something, and allowed him to flourish as a forty-something and beyond.

The interesting thing is that career-wise, Jobs was a multi-millionaire by age 25. But he was far from being a successful person in life. To live life well is a very different venture than running businesses in the black (though arguably related). The embodiment of our expectations, our dreams, our perceived gifting, and the way in which we treat people can make or break us as people.

In the 80’s, Jobs was ornery, prickly, polarizing, a know-it-all, pushy, and brilliant. But through being fired from his own company, building another company that hemorrhaged cash every year (Next), love lost, love gained, marriage, children both in and out of wedlock, and the success of Pixar, he was slightly less prickly, slightly less polarizing, thinking through the need for moral high-ground, patient, and still brilliant.

The very things that tried to destroy him were refining him to tackle the issues he was born to resolve. And he couldn’t face them until he was resolved. Until he was reinvented.

We tend to look at our own lives in the scope of today, this week, and next month. It’s not often we think about who we’ll be in twenty years and the things we’ll need to walk through in order to become the person that our environments need. Most of us – myself included – tend to look back and notice change. But what incredible foresight it is to see change that needs to take place ahead of us, and then embrace it.

I believe the root of such vision is divine in origin. It comes from a connection to the Holy Spirit who sees the end from the beginning.

I’ll save my limited thoughts on Steve’s spirituality for another day. Whether he had foresight, or simply was a product of the pressures that assailed him remains to be seen. But it’s apparent that he was able to accept many of the maturing influences that life threw him and grow.

Don’t put off your future fortunes by failing to miss the point of your present pressures. ch:

The Bumblebee and Qualifications


Yesterday Luik accompanied me to Jefferson Community College in Watertown, NY where I addressed the Intro to Business class. Having him beside me was a great encouragement (and let us have a Daddy/Son date to CiCi’s afterward, followed by some indoor rock climbing at Black River Adventures).

During the final Q&A section of my “lecture” (how tedious sounding!), I addressed a question that lead into the subject of what makes us qualified to do what we’re doing.

Certainly, I want my doctor to have gone to school and be qualified to operate on me.

But often the people that accomplish the most in life are sometimes the least “qualified.”

In my address, I mentioned Igor Sikorsky – father of the modern day helicopter – and his famous if not endearing quote about doing what we should not be able to:

“According to the laws of aerodynamics, the bumblebee can’t fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know anything about the laws of aerodynamics, so it goes ahead and flies anyway.”

Most of what I’m doing today I’m technically unqualified for. I’ve never been to college for music, art, pastoring, film, design, literature, creative writing, business development or franchising, let alone fathering or parenting. By all secular accounts, I shouldn’t even be allowed to operate a candy bar stand.

But I don’t know that I shouldn’t be able to do this stuff, so I just keep doing it anyway. (Thanks Igor).

This is certainly not a cop-out for getting an education; but an education should also never be a cop-out for hard work and diligence. (Nor is entering into a mammoth amount of ambiguous debt my recommendation either).

Qualification has far more to do with experience than it does with approval. Test results and certificates approve us, but only time and our capacity to embrace correction truly qualify us. ch:

What’s Your Rewards Program?

I got a benefits card from Starbucks in the mail today. I’m now a Gold Card carrier. Nice envelope, nice packaging, and nice things to say about me. (Though automated).

Here’s the crazy part: Starbucks isn’t even close to being my favorite coffee.

Part of the reason I got this status – based on how many times a customer orders – is that a church I ministered at gave me a loaded Starbucks card as a gift. Free coffee. Score. (Thanks Mocha Dragon).

But there was also this idea floating around in the back of my mind that if I order enough, I get benefits for my patronage.

Never underestimate the power of providing benefits. Such a program can attract people to be patrons even if you don’t provide their favorite product. There’s power not only in the type of benefits you provide, but also in the sense of community that you create. Because people want to belong.

The interesting thing is that Starbucks didn’t create the idea of a rewards program. And while some church goers would consider it blaspheme if their church had a benefits program, the simple fact is, God started it.

Psalm 103:2 says, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” And Hebrews 11:6 adds to it by saying, “…And He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

God has a rewards program with benefits.

Sounds way too capitalistic for those occupying Wall Street at the moment. But the truth is, while salvation is offered freely, favor is costly. It demands loyalty, patronage, and consistency.

There are even particular rewards and benefits disseminated in direct proportion to our level of patronage. And while the idealist would say, “You should seek God simply because He’s God” – and I would agree – there is the reality that people are human, and sometimes we don’t see the goal, only the benefits. And if that’s what it takes to drive certain people forward, I’m all for it. Because eventually they’ll get the point. Or they’ll run into the Rewarder.

Unless, of course, you offer a terrible product. In which case I may stop using my Gold Card when the free money runs out. ch:


Q: What rewards do your friends get from knowing you? Do certain friends get different benefits? Based on what?

Q: What retailer or business do you frequent because they have a great reward program? Are you willing to pay more, or put up with something you don’t like, because of their program?


Need Inspiring Church Graphics?

I’m sitting on a big project right now. So stoked. Can’t say much. But I can at least ask a very cool question:

Would you or your church pay a small fee to have professional print collateral (weekly handouts, handbills, response cards, business cards, letterhead, posters, billboards) custom designed for your church?

I know, I know. Your church isn’t that big. But it should be thinking big. Because we have a lot of people to reach. And let’s face it: we reach them – in part – through how things look. We are a visual-value based society. And the Church is not exempt. If anything, She’s called to lead.

I know lots of small churches would love to move beyond Microsoft clip art, multicolored copy paper, and Papyrus and Times New Roman typefaces. (Or someone should inform them). But hiring a full-time, or even part-time, graphic designer is pretty low on the Board’s priority list.

So what if you could hire us?

New Life’s Creative Team helps your church standout in your town’s culture in a big way, you help keep our staff employed.

Every business venture, Kingdom or not, must be a win-win to work. This could be your church’s chance to radically change the way it presents itself to the community. And this is our chance to invest into the Body on a global scale, and fund the development of the creative arts within the Kingdom.

Open to all your thoughts and comments, especially if you or your church would like to chat. No pressure. ch:


I worked out for the second time last night. I almost threw up. I’m no longer at a place where my squirrel-like metabolism affords me the choice of whether I work out or not: I have to work out.

Some people there where working out because their doctor told them to or else they’d die. That’s a pretty powerful motivator. Others because they’re clearly cross training for some Olympic sport.

But I wager that no one there last night saw “going to the gym” as their ultimate goal.

Professional athletes train for one purpose:

To win.

Good business people are constantly assessing their role in a simple formula:

Create a good or service that benefits people and generates positive cash flow.

Diligent students want to graduate with honors; successful musicians want to have people pay to hear them play; writers want their words in as many hands as possible.

Goals are not only a noble pursuit, they help us stay focused. They anchor us with stability in the midst of personal shaking; they give us a clear path forward when we’re presented ulterior options – options which would undermine success.

As a Christian, what are your goals?

I find much of what’s presented to us, much of what’s expected, to be well meaning but tepid, good natured but nauseating, and having some level of virtue but ultimately emasculating.

Is my sole pursuit as a Believer in Christ simply to read my Bible until I know more than someone else, or pray until others notice God hovering over me, or be such a good husband that other wives point me out to their husbands, or such a good father that other families’ kids would prefer living in my house, or tithe so faithfully and fully that most church salaries and projects are covered by my giving?

Such goals sound silly. Yet those are all very real conversations I’ve counseled people through – our been counseled through myself.

A noble vision without heaven’s backing becomes a fruitless pursuit.

So how do we attract the eyes of heaven?

116,229 people live in my Jefferson County, NY. Last night, our church board sat around and discussed a simple yet profound truth: what we’re stewarding now is incredible, but it’s nothing compared with where we need to go. This is a great corporate vision, yet I was struck on a personal level.

What am I doing to personally notify, navigate, and nurture those 116,229 people into a relationship with Jesus? What are my wife and I doing? My children?

How many of the 116,229 are the Hopper’s goal? Our part may be to reach 23, yours is 54, but the Bride is commissioned with reaching all of them, nothing less. And I’m a part of the Bride.

If heaven considers me a successful Christian, a Christian that has a goal, how does it measure me?

My findings suggest it’s by how much my value of people provokes active compassion, especially toward those living the furthest from his grace.

Do not confuse disciplines and goals. No good athlete looks at the weight machine and says, “I want to do more reps than anyone in the world.” They say, “I need to condition myself to go out there and win.”

Don’t confuse your Christian disciplines with your heaven-backed goals. All the “gym time” in the world won’t touch a single life if you don’t get out there on the field and start playing to win.

Ah, there goes another one. 116,228 and counting. ch:


CiCi’s Progress Pics

In honor of our newest CiCi’s Pizza store in Watertown, NY starting its new hire interviews today, I thought I’d share some of the behind the scenes pics I’ve collected of it’s development.

As with anything worth doing, the team of talented men and women who’ve collaborated on this project deserve a great deal of thanks. I’m very excited for its completion and grand opening in just a few weeks.

LOCALS: If you know of any hardworking, fun-loving people looking for new work – or just a game change – send them over to New Life today and tomorrow between 10am-12noon. ch:



What’s Your Type of Success?

I’m learning a lot about being stretched by God in this season. Between 21 consecutive nights of house guests, writing curriculum and re-structuring leadership for re-launching a youth ministry and a discipleship school, doing my final re-write of Book III, preparing for a West Coast book tour, concerts, youth conferences, a speaking schedule, and helping to oversee a church building project as well as two new pizza business, I’m certainly feeling the affects of fatigue.

But not as much as I was six months ago.

While at a leaders meeting this past Saturday, God really moved during our time of corporate prayer. Not during our brainstorming sessions. Not during coffee and donuts. During prayer. When the dust had settled after our time of seeking God, we all rubbed our eyes and sat back, stunned at how God had met with us. Stunned at how we felt energized. Refreshed. And how many new ideas had come with so much peace accompanying them.

So often it seems we, or at least how I roll, live our lives and try make time for God, when in reality–a truer reality–we should be living our lives for God and trying to make time for everything else.

Granted, my life is pretty full and I’ve seen a lot of success, with more coming, I hope. It’s truly amazing how much we can do and be successful without even bothering to take more than ten minutes with God in a day. Even less. He’s just that gracious. But as we were in prayer, God gave me a little line that has really challenged me to determine which kind of “success” I want. Here’s what I mean…

“A life lived for God is successful, but a prayer-lead life lived with God is divinely successful.”

I’m in a season where I don’t just want to be successful, I want to be divinely successful. Anyone can be successful if they work hard enough, cling to diligence, and embrace a lifestyle of excellence. Shoot. Some people even get lucky! But to be divinely excellent, that is quite another thing. To have God breath on His own ideas for your life, for Him to dictate what and when you do, that is something heavenly. Divine. And though I’ve heard it said a thousand times, preached, taught, and recited, I am recognizing that this kind of success only comes through prayer.

Brad Ringer, one of our amazing staff members here at DIBOR, always challenges me with a question: “Are you replacing prayer with study?” Often we replace reading the Bible or a good spiritual book, or even journaling, with time that we should be in prayer. Why? Because reading my Bible is something I can do, and touch, and measure. But prayer gets no glory. I can’t measure it, save maybe in time. But true prayer is much deeper than a religious exercise or a discipline. It’s communion with the Holy Spirit. And I feel as though I’m rediscovering that.

If I ever needed refreshment in the midst of an onslaught of activities, it’s now. If I ever needed divine inspiration and direction, Holy Ghost prompted initiatives and Godly time-management skills, if I ever needed peace in the midst of the storm, I need it today.

Thanks for reading.