discernment

I don't know whom I should work with. But God does!

Lately, I’ve found myself praying, “Lord, please don’t let this deal close if it’s not the right partner.” 

That’s a BIG departure from where I was a year ago when, somewhat desperate, I wanted every deal to work out. Left to my own discernment, I would currently be contractually bound to people and businesses that are just not a good fit for what I’m building or what I believe in. 

For example…

  • A business run by a guy whose office walls were covered in porn and who implied that he could get around the law. 

  • Another business leader that, by many measures, is the top in the area but with a self-professed penchant for partying hard at the expense of personal relationships. 

  • One woman, a very talented and growing entrepreneur and an excellent fit for what I’m building, had I signed a deal with her, would have damaged relationships I know I need to invest in. 

Now I find myself asking God to confirm who is the right partner. Just because someone has the finances, interest, or even if they look like a good fit in my own mind, it doesn’t mean it’s the right partner for me.

Here’s my checklist to determine how I should proceed:

  1. Is this a business I want to promote? Someone recently told me I should partner with a divorce attorney, so I started to research who was best. Then it hit me, why would I point people that direction when I could instead lead them to a marriage counselor. Given my desire to, whenever possible, see relationships healed and restored, the latter makes more sense. I now screen against what I want to stand for. 

  2. Do the leadership/staff have integrity? One doesn’t have to share my faith, but I hope to see some indication that they operate with values like excellence, customer service, attention to detail, positive messaging. I’ve opted out of working with a few partners due to observed behaviors that are troubling, at best. This is a fine line because I also want to acknowledge that I never have all the facts and people, including me, have bad days. 

  3. What are we each trying to get out of this, and can I help? I try to sense poor motives, like a company trying to make a quick profit or exploit something or someone. I also need to believe that I can help the business get where they want to go through the partnership. No amount of money is worth taking if I know I don’t at least have a shot at delivering high value.  

  4. What does God want me to do? This is most important, and because I’m a man of prayer, I pray over prospective deals. This is a HUGE ‘x-variable’ because at times I have turned away from sales that made sense in every other regard. I don’t always know why I don’t have peace about the deal, but I serve a God whose ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:8), and trust that he wants good for me (Jeremiah 29:11), so I just do it. 

This discernment, practiced on a daily basis, begins to become refined so that sometimes even in the midst of a conversation I get a sense if it’s a fit or not. Other times it will take weeks or months of prayer, listening, and wise counsel. And it doesn’t just work to screen out deals, there are occasions when it doesn’t seem to make sense that I should work with someone, but I feel peace about it and so continue to pursue it.

Ultimately, this way of vetting deals has been challenging, especially since in my current role I’m looking at up to 10 deals a week and completing 2 or 3. However, the quality is improving, and I trust that these are going to be the right partners in the long run. Not to mention, the anxiety of overthinking and overworking deals is fading away as I trust God. And, I’m even celebrating when deals don’t go through, in the world of sales, this is indeed a peace that passes all understanding! 

FOLLOWING JESUS = SAYING LESS IN BUSINESS

I STILL SAY TOO MUCH IN BUSINESS.

With one verbal chip after another I work to carve a masterpiece, and sometimes see it crumble before me. My sales pitch is often full to the brim with backstory and key updates (at least to me) on traction gained.

In short, with matters of words, I go long.

Commentary as a means of influence, now full frontal from dawn to dusk in real time across a litany of platforms by (often self professed) leaders, has lured me into the never ending truth-telling conjecture.

To be relevant, the world says, I simply must add my piece. And I have.

I realized recently that all this running at the mouth was affecting my business. Fueled by anxiety over deals I wanted too much, I found myself verbally barraging prospects to make my case.  Further, I prayed fervently for each one to come through. Most didn’t.

Quiet time with God helped me see that my anxiety was fruitless, striving foolish, and that one day’s “unanswered” prayer became the next day’s thanksgiving for sparing me from my own request.  

I QUESTIONED MYSELF AND GOD:

1. If I can’t discern what deals I need, why am I praying so hard for them?

2. If I know God is going to provide, why am I acting desperate?

3. What does peace look like in my dealings and how do I say less?

The Holy antidote to my loose lips? Drum roll please... the spiritual disciplines have to be there: prayer and fasting, daily scripture reading, and regular fellowship. Also extended prayer around strategic plans, new clients, and major moves. Perhaps a retreat to learn to enjoy silence.

This feels a lot like “the same old answer” to spiritual growth, but has taken on a new importance for me in the launch of my startup. And while I know the enjoyment in hearing myself make a case will not easily take a seat, I already see that growth in my faith should cut down my word count in these very clear ways.

1. Discernment about privacy

 As God gives ground to my business I am entrusted with sensitive information. A misstep erodes hard earned trust. The old adage “loose lips sink ships” is more true every day and I have to ask God to help me “tame my tongue” to, in some cases, literally prevent death and disaster.  

2. Willingness to wait or stop a relationship

Had I crossed paths with the rich young ruler (from Mark Ch. 10) a few months ago, I would gladly have had him back my business. And yet God desires his peace to rule in our heart (Col. 3:15) where the word rule means “umpire.” God should call the shots on every person we hire or have as a client or partner! We enter endless conversations that should not be simply because we forge ahead ignorant of the still small voice telling us to wait, stop, or go another direction.

3. Guarding against exaggeration, manipulation, and lies

Recently, I got a call from a prospect while on the run and heard myself say that another respected business had come on-board even though the deal wasn’t signed. I hung up the phone surprised at my own fast lie and had to repent. No surprise the deal imploded. Now, I closely examine my calls, emails, and pitches looking for dishonesty to root out and make tweaks on a weekly basis.

4. Comfort-ability with silence in conversations

Wisdom in negotiations says that he who speaks first loses and it has been proven that using filler words in a presentation erodes credibility. But how do we find the fortitude to be such a confident, patient negotiator and presenter? I posit that if our walk with the Lord is strong we ought to excel in our ability to be still and silent.

In summary, it’s become clear—the more I talk the less effective I am and it points to a lack of faith in God about my business. Do I truly believe that if I work hard and seek the Lord I am going to have all things provided? If so, my actions and, very importantly, my words (or lack thereof) ought to show it.

Don’t take my word for it...

“EVERYONE SHOULD BE QUICK TO LISTEN, SLOW TO SPEAK…” JAMES 1:19

 “IN A MULTITUDE OF WORDS SIN IS UNAVOIDABLE, BUT HE WHO REFRAINS HIS LIPS IS WISE.” PROVERBS 10:19

Originally published on Faith Driven Entrepreneur

Adventures in Faith

Book Cover Reveal, More Revealing Than I Bargained For

I'm a fan of April Fools Day pranks. The fake product launches out of Silicon Valley, baby announcements from friends (usually twins), and the like--I enjoy a good "shucks, ya got me!"

And I've pulled a few myself. I launched a fake performance dashboard at Geneva Global, assigned impossible projects to staff on 4/1, and I've peddled fake news amongst family each Spring.

This year was going to be no different. 

But how to pull something off on Easter? Easy, I thought, build up to it over the course of a week so nobody sees it coming. 

Yes folks, if you're catching on, the book cover announcement isn't real. The problem is, I got confronted with something uncomfortable while doing this. 

Maybe it had to do with today being Easter, and the fact that I've been enamored all week that Jesus actually rose from the dead just like he said he would. I'm stunned God would do that for us and I'm "getting" more and more the magnitude of forgiveness that's played out in Jesus.

And my little joke started to feel more and more...lame.

I also had a major oversight in my scheme. Whitney.  She was perplexed as to why she didn't know about this book cover, publisher, and all kinds of other details.

Eventually I had to tell her it was all a joke. She smiled, then 24 hours later she told me she'd prayed and felt the Holy Spirit nudging her to nudge me to pray about this too.

Long story short, this trick I was going to pull isn't honoring to God, and so I'm calling it off.

First, I confess to y'all that it was a big lie. There is no book cover, no publisher, barely even conversations around publishing. I'm sorry for lying.

I'm also sorry that once in awhile I find it humorous to mislead people. It's a heart issue and something I'll be watching and asking God to help fix.

In conclusion, I'm going to share the fake book cover anyway since you've taken the time to read all of this (see below).

And, well, my joke book cover alluded to the fact that if you think there's anything good about me the truth is there is someone behind me kicking my butt who rarely get's any visibility or credit. 

Case in point.

Love you guys, and when the book cover REALLY is done, I won't play any games about it, I promise.

Happy Easter, God bless you, and may the spirit of the risen Christ move in, around, and through you mightily.

Ryan

Kick in the @ss (1).jpg

Adventures in Faith

God is the Real Deal

I've found that in God's Kingdom things get whacky really fast. His "economy" looks nothing like ours, He doesn't play by our laws, there are no man made presumptions to contend with.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
— Jesus in Matthew 19:26

I've come to realize that God actually turns things upside down like this so that, when one looks back at the circumstances, they are so clearly out of one's control that it had to be God. I find myself thinking, and increasingly saying, just that. God get's the credit--there's no way I could have done this. 

If you watched my recent Stanford talk, you heard about how when I was in need of money to "make ends meet" I got a call about a consulting job that more than made up for the 1/3 pay cut I had suddenly experienced. Clearly it would seem that I was the one who was blessed by that.

Think again.

Yes, I certainly was, but it turns out that the guy who gave me the job was probably equally blessed. First, as it all played out, he realized so clearly that God spoke to him in prayer--this alone is a wonderful sensation. Once you tune your ear to discern what is your own thoughts, and what are the thoughts God put there, its powerful.

Then, he stepped out in faith to hire me and then pay me out of his own pocket. A financial loss, but he quickly saw God used it for a bigger purpose. I remember sitting with him and his wife over dinner while on the job and I detailed how I had met with a CEO who had offered me a job on the spot. They looked at each other, then at me, and said, "that's why we were to bring you here."

When these kinds of things play out, no matter how seasoned a believer in God you may be, I think you are always elated and even a bit mystified at the realities of a practical living God who's working things out on Earth. It still blows me away when this stuff happens, but the more I see it and believe it the more it happens and I feel like I'm essentially living in a world with another dimension. 

When I spoke at Stanford, Mike, the guy that hired me, brought his wife and son along to hear the talk. We've rehashed it numerous times to really praise God about it. And, I just discovered, it all struck him so much that he decided to write about it on his popular blog, Biblical Viewpoint. Here's an except from his post titled, "Are You the Real Deal?"

Over this past year I had a young man’s name pop into my mind while I was praying. Not a vision, not audible words, but the simple, distinct thought of this person’s name. I did not even know him that well. The strong notion I received in prayer was that I should hire this young man as an assistant on one of my business consulting projects. By the way, this would cost me money out of my own pocket and I was confident that this junior person would add little value to the project. The available project had not even come up yet. I asked God to make it clear how, where, and when to involve this person.
— Mike Griego on BiblicalViewpoint.com

In the article, he talks about living a stereotypical Christian faith vs. one that he calls "all in." This is humbling to me that he considers me to be this kind of Christian, I know I fail often, and yet God keeps saying to me, "Ryan, I need laborers, people to be my hands and feet, brush yourself off and follow me." And for that, yes, I am all in. 

Adventures in Faith

Healed A Man at Penn Station in NYC?

This guy comes up to me at Penn Station NYC, wanting help, not knowing I'm sensing in my spirit the extent. I'm hungry, he says. Okay, I will feed you. Grab $ from pocket. Tell me your name... Tell me your story. How did you get here? Kidney failure. Two strokes. Heart attack. How old are you? 50; I stroked in my truck at UPS. I do dialysis 4 days per week for 4 hours. Wow man, that's tough. Look at my veins. Okay. Touch it right here, there's a machine in there. I feel it. But!! I get a new kidney in two days. Praise God I react. Then I say, where is your family? Another country, but they are coming for the surgery. Okay brother, I will give you 2 things: 1. The rest of my $, 2. A prayer to God for you--is that okay? Oh yes, I believe in God... Always have... Let's go over here he asks... We go... Jesus, oh Jesus, my hand on his arm, oh Jesus, your name, wash over this all now, heal him, accept the kidney please, strengthen, renew, give him a vision of the purpose of this long trial. He looks at me: yes, yes, there's a reason.... I look him in the eyes--there's a plan for you--before I walk away knowing he will be healed I give him a big old hug, then on my train...

 — at Amtrak - Penn Station, NY.

Adventures in Faith

I Just Turned Down a Sweet Job

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Colossians 3:15 -  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

So I had this amazing opportunity presented to me. An international diplomat with a vision to launch this really cool business start-up in Silicon Valley, through a wild set of circumstances/connections was introduced to me. And, low and behold, after a few Skype calls, felt like I was the guy to launch this thing in Silicon Valley, and I had to turn it down.

As the opportunity unfolded, I put a lot of prayer into the decision. And what I heard early on was Colossians 3:15. When I say "heard" what I mean is that I opened my Bible for guidance and when I read it, that verse jumped off the page. Then, it showed up in a devotional. Then, when I talked to a pastor about this big decision, he brought up the same verse without knowing it had already come twice before.

This pastor told me that the word "rule" in that verse, in the original language (Greek  βραβεῖον), it means to umpire or call the shots. He told me that whenever he has a decision with lots of little steps, like an interview process, he let's the verse guide him. And so I took that fact that this verse had popped into my life three times in a row, well, I decided to let God's peace rule in my heart too. 

And so as I take these steps, I let God make the calls, if I get peace about it in prayer, in reading Scripture, through my wife, etc. then I know that I am in God's will, if I do not, I simply backtrack and move in another direction.

That was easy when I had peace about it. Then, something strange happened. A few communications with the parties that were involved left me feeling less at peace. There weren't any huge red flags, by all means, I still wanted to take the job. But, the peace was fading. So, I brought in the big guns, my incredibly discerning wife, to see what kind of peace she had. And, as we reviewed the details, she had great insights, and she too had a fading sense of peace.

There were still a couple of steps to take short of taking the job, and so I decided to take them, and continue to see what happened with this feeling of peace. Within another week, it did not return, and so I reached out to the various parties who were now involved both in Silicon Valley and abroad to withdraw my application. 

The good news is that these guys are also Christians, and I knew they were praying about this whole thing too, so I figured it wouldn't end badly. And, in fact, they were so gracious in their understanding. We agreed that this was the best solution, even if it wasn't predicted or convenient. I resolved to continue to find a way to serve the project and certainly pray for it.

Within 48 hours I realized that the contacts I believed would serve this start-up should still be plugged into it, even without me at the helm. And so I reached out to make those connections. I continued to pray for the project, and then a dear friend of mine, who I had discussed this whole thing with, sent me another candidate for the job. So, I reached out again with a new candidate for the job, someone with arguably a better skill set for the position that I have.

The conversation continues. The team that is in place to launch this enterprise, well, they are Godly men, they're praying too and while we know that I won't work with them in a legal sense, I know that in God's Kingdom we are all co-laborers, and I have a high level of certainty that we will continue to serve each other in our efforts. This is the kind of really sweet relations that can happen even in rejecting a sweet job offer when one is dealing in the Kingdom of God.