What He’s Done

Benjamin Robinson preached a message yesterday about thankfulness. My main takeaway from that sermon was that we tend to focus on what God hasn’t done instead of thanking Him for what he has done. In the moment, I was convicted – guilty as charged.

But today those words really showed their teeth. I had a moment where I felt the gravity of every deficiency and challenge in my life at this moment – and there are quite a few! I noticed that there’s a pattern to how I approach these trials:

"No problem. This is manageable."
"Suck it up and power through this."
"This has to end soon, right?"
"I don't know how much more of this I can take."
"If things don't get better I'm going to go off."
"God, why?"

With each stage I tend to become less and less aware of everything good in my life. Instead, I become more and more aware of the pain, the size of the obstacle, and how incapable I feel to do anything about it. In other words, I very quickly lose sight of what is right in order to focus on what is wrong.

So after a quick prayer, I decided to write a few things that I’m thankful for.

  1. I’m able to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship. The challenges that I’m facing in it right now are the very reasons that I signed up to do it in the first place.
  2. I have family and friends that love me and support me. They never doubt my success on the other side of risk or challenge.
  3. I’m in great health and have a newfound enjoyment for vigorous exercise, running, and biking.
  4. God continues to draw me near to Him and constantly reminds me that I’m His son even when I don’t act like it. I cannot overstate this: His love rescues me daily.
  5. I’m thankful that I am still inspired to move forward and take risks. I just can’t bow to the shadows of fear and complacency. I love waking up excited to take on the day!

I’m on this adventure of life with God. It wouldn’t be much of an adventure without some unexpected turns. Fortunately for me, I’m loved and there is no fear in love. Unfortunately for my obstacles, I’m coming for them again tomorrow.

The Momentum Force Awakens

A commonly held philosophy in the tech startup world is to launch quickly, iterate early and often, then scale at all costs. Companies like Uber, Facebook, Slack, and Snapchat all abide by this set of rules. Even Kernl, a company I co-founded last year with Joshua Chang and Danny Choi, has relied on this strategy to become a competitive market leader. Move forward and don’t stop. In other words, build momentum. Momentum isn’t a mysterious Jedi trick, but it is a force that is lurking behind every story of success.

On the heels of raising an additional round of seed funding for Kernl, I can’t help but to reflect on the events that have gotten our team to this point. We started working on Kernl in September of 2014 with a dream to revolutionize “giving” and make it a rewarding social experience for both the giver and the receiver. One year and several dozen iterations of that vision later, we have a beautiful iOS app and website to do just that. But the reality is that greater than 90% of our progress to date was realized within the last 3 months. The time before that was littered with over-designed, over-engineered, over-complicated, under-appreciated ideas and prototypes. So what changed?

In August, we decided to put on the blindfolds, pick up the proverbial scissors, and run as fast as we could toward a destination that we could barely see. We hired our first full-time engineer and picture-locked our vision to an attainable version 1.0 (I would call it an MVP but that would be lying). We started building relentlessly, even recklessly—designing for the gaps as we went—so that we could submit it to the app store within 90 days. I had one friend, a brilliant engineer and former co-worker, caution that we would need a miracle to pull it off in time. Though we were confident, we felt anything but stable. I also felt something that we lacked in the prior nine months: momentum. Today, suddenly the wind is at our backs. People see our vision and are excited, and we’ve hit our stride in development with a weekly build cadence. Now it’s our responsibility to fight to maintain that momentum. Every. Day.

. . . to gain momentum requires things to get heavier, faster, and harder to stop.

Momentum is a scary thing. It is the product of an object’s mass and velocity, which implies that to gain momentum requires things to get heavier, faster, and harder to stop. That’s also the beauty of this force. It creates an increase in the substance of what you’re doing and mandates that you commit, stretch your faith, and overcome every obstacle in your way regardless of how sure-footed you feel. The more momentum, the more unstoppable.

The opposite of momentum is paralysis. That’s the “stuck” feeling we all sometimes experience. The most successful people find ways to build momentum in every area of life: the marketplace, spiritually, personal goals, and relationships. That’s what life looks like when we combine our faith with our works.

Not surprisingly, P. Diddy said it well. “Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Uh-uh, Uh-uh.” 🔑

The Value of the Void

Astronaut, artist, introvert. I dream of becoming one of these and the other two are a part of who I am. But they all have one thing in common: space.

/spās/  
noun
1. a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied.
2. the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move.
verb
1. position (two or more items) at a distance from one another.

Have you ever wondered why there exists such an enormous expanse of seemingly nothingness in our universe? I mean, we’re talking about LIGHTYEARS of distance! Or why does the negative space in art—photography, graphic design, even music—contribute a qualitative aesthetic rather than take away from it? How about the need for an introvert to get away and reset after being around people for too long?

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It’s evident that God has hardwired space as a necessary ingredient in our everyday lives. Just enough space creates ideal conditions for the objects which it separates. Earth, orbiting an average of 93 million miles from the sun would be entirely too hot for liquid water or organic life if only a few million miles closer to its star. Without space in art, there would be no object of attention to appreciate or pathway to guide the eye. Without personal space, an introvert becomes frustrated and slowly shuts down relationally and creatively.

I’m an introvert. That simply means that I energize alone.

Pastor Joel Brooks

So how can we create the space we need in our own lives? For me, I’m committing to dedicated, brief but untouchable time alone with God every morning. And for the creative introvert in me, I am committing to at least an 8 hour block of time each week where I focus on making my dreams a reality. I encourage you to think about how you can create space in your own world.

Embracing space is a 🔑 to success that is hidden in plain sight.
“Space, the final frontier.”  Surprisingly profound words from Captain Kirk.

Becoming an Eternal Excellence

Did you know there are burns worse than a third-degree burn? Medically, they go all the way to sixth-degree, where the bone is charred. But I believe there is actually another degree: the seventh-degree burn.

Our lives are wrought with seventh-degree burns; painful experiences that enkindle beyond our physical bodies to our very souls. They cause tremendous pain, but if left in God’s hands they are a source of personal refinement and growth. In the realm of fire ecology, this is akin to wildfires and volcanic eruptions that leave the land more fertile and promote ecological diversity.

I experienced these burns throughout this past year with the loss of two grandparents, the many challenges that come with entrepreneurship, relational wows and woes, and a brutally honest look in the spiritual mirror.

Surely, the prophet Isaiah knew of the seventh-degree burn as well:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.”

Isaiah 6 : 6-7

Thank God for the coals. They remove our blemishes and make room for a better future. When we feel the weight of opposition . . . when we see patterns of failure and pain . . . when we our confronted with our shortcomings . . . it is our job to steward the promises of God’s word and trust Him all the more.

Whereas you have been forsaken and hated,
So that no one went through you,
I will make you an eternal excellence,
A joy of many generations.

Isaiah 60 : 15

This year I trust God to make me into an eternal excellence. It’s who the I Am told me that I am.

In the words of DJ Khaled, “Major 🔑. Ride wit me. #blessup”