Leaving my 10-year career at Fransmart

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This picture was taken at a very pivotal time in my life. I was at the 14th Factory Museum in Los Angeles with my family (a MUST visit – even if you’re not an art fanatic), and while I was admiring the exhibit, I wasn’t entirely present. My mind was immersed in one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

For the past few months, I was feeling conflicted about my job. Which was the strangest thing, because I love the work I do at Fransmart – acquiring small food concepts and growing them into global restaurant chains, and helping entrepreneurs and investors win in the process.

It didn’t make sense that I felt pulled in a different direction. My job was rewarding on so many levels.

After a lot of time in prayer, thinking, and discussions with my wife and other loved ones…I felt a calling that told me it was time to leave Fransmart and put more chips on my entrepreneurial aspirations.

Telling you I was nervous was the understatement of the century. I felt tremors coursing through veins just thinking about leaving. While The Halal Guys was growing by leaps and bounds, we haven’t taken a distribution for two years; all profits went to either repaying our investors or reinvesting into fortifying our organization and new store development. Fransmart was my family’s main source of income; I love the company, my CEO Dan Rowe, my teammates, and my senior post; and I have insurance, a retirement plan, and other perks. I felt stupid and crazy for having these thoughts.

But if I look back at all of the game-changing moments in my life – leaving college DURING MY LAST SEMESTER BEFORE GRADUATION to pursue my first restaurant; being employed by Fransmart when I was trying to franchise my own restaurant; going through a difficult divorce after only six months of marriage; meeting my wife at church when I wasn’t looking; her kids adopting me before I later realized I couldn’t have kids; embarking on The Halal Guys as the largest franchise partner in the chain….I’m reminded that none of these events were ever planned, that these couldn’t happen by my own power, and that they were not decisions I would’ve normally made had it not been for God’s persistent calling and provision.

I put up a fight with myself and God. “Why?!” “This is my main bread and butter until the revenue from my other projects eclipse what I do at Fransmart. Isn’t this a little premature?” And “I’m able to handle multiple projects at the same time; there’s no need to leave if I don’t have to!”

Time and time again, without fail, and in the Bible as well as in my life…thinking I know better than God always fails. Not following His will always fails. Delayed obedience is still disobedience, and always fails as well.

So back to the museum story, where this picture was taken…I was moving from one exhibit to the next, where I was directed to exit the indoor part of the museum. The internal conflict of whether I should leave or stay with Fransmart was hit in the face with a sign that said “EXIT” and “MORE THIS WAY.”

It wasn’t even part of the exhibit, but it was the most important artwork for me. It helped tipped the scale towards leaving. It was God’s way of yelling at me – all other subtle whispers and mediums to move me didn’t shake my indecision for months until this moment.

That night, I submitted my letter of resignation to Fransmart, and the new adventure began.

Ten years of service. Ten years of working long hours. Ten years of traveling all over the globe. Ten years invested into a career that I thought would last until retirement. But as the investment disclaimer always says: “Past performance is no indication of future performance;” success and comfort zones both breed complacency; and God tends to strip you of the life you knew so that you can depend on Him, build spiritual muscle, and give you more purpose.

I’m scared out of my wits for leaving – but it’s proof that I was dependent on my job more than Him. I’ve learned that when I’m scared, I am on the right track. And the Bible teaches me that there is only enough room for one of the two – fear or love. If I replace this fear with love, then I’ll remember that God cares for me unconditionally, is much wiser than my own knowledge, and has a plan bigger and more meaningful than I can ever imagine. So with that encouragement from Him…I am super excited.

I am thankful to have left my employer on good terms, as I plan on doing independent consulting for Fransmart; but now I have a clean slate to use my experiences, talents, and passions I’ve gathered along the way to help people the way I believe God has called me to help. I never really had a plan to transition to, but that’s a good thing – since I’m letting Him lead me; I just need to be comfortable with uncertainty. I’ve already received some excitement for my departure and opportunities from my network, and so having a clean slate definitely makes room for interesting and meaningful work (it also can attract jobs I shouldn’t be doing, too; but I’m trying to create boundaries in front of them).

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Here’s to the end of one chapter; and on to the next.

Devotional: Do what’s best

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“May He equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen!” (Heb. 13:21)

“God’s will done God’s way never lacks God’s support,” as Pastor Rick Warren would always say.

If I am doing what I am shaped to do; if I am doing work at the highest level, with love, with the intention of giving Him the glory, and that serves my brothers and sisters…I have nothing to worry about, and God’s strength will be with me and it will be successful.

It might not be success on our terms – money, possessions, power, recognition, or even results that payoff in my lifetime – but it’s something that lasts forever, is important, and I will be rewarded.

If the work I do doesn’t inspire me, doesn’t exhibit His love, doesn’t serve the people that Jesus died for, and I can’t or won’t do it to the best of my ability…I’ll need to eliminate it, and make room for activities that do fit the bill. I don’t have enough resources for mediocre, misaligned work that won’t have an eternal ROI.

Devotional: Re-thinking ministry

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.” (Rom. 12:1, The Message)

This is an insight that changed everything for me years ago. After coming back from serving in Rwanda (I went with a team there to build pre-schools for poor communities with no access to education), I felt bad to not want to go back and do more ministry work there.

I was so confused – I love the Lord, the country of Rwanda and its people were incredible, it was a heavily-rewarding experience, I was blessed to do what most can’t or won’t do, and I got to travel and see more of God’s glory. I couldn’t stop raving about my teammates and the work that God made happen.

“What is wrong with me?!” I thought.

A few months after my trip, I was listening to Pastor Rick Warren speak on an episode of Daily Hope, and his message shifted my perspective.

I can’t remember the exact wording, but his point was this:

God created everybody differently – from your biological make-up, to your talents, experiences, your ministry, and your ultimate calling. He loves variety. Some people are not called to make money, but called to go into the mission field and carry out God’s initiatives. And then there are others who may not be called into the mission field, but they’re great in business and have been blessed with obtaining financial resources – they can produce the income needed to fuel these life-changing missionary initiatives.

There is no one better ministry than the other. Both are necessary.

It made me think about my work at Fransmart, The Halal Guys, and consulting gigs differently. I realized that while I may work for a CEO or I may be a business owner – God is the true boss that I serve, and that the money I make can enable mission trips and other important causes that would either not happen or be delayed.

It led me to look at even my everyday tasks differently as well – like brushing my teeth, eating meals, driving to work, playing with my boys, talking with my wife, etc…that they are also an opportunity to serve Him and give Him glory. It doesn’t need to be massive, public activities to make God smile – they are all critical.

If your heart doesn’t tug you towards being a pastor, missionary, nonprofit worker, or be any other position that carries the obvious Christian banner….don’t fret and feel you aren’t doing what God wants you to do. Sometimes He wants you to be knee-deep in non-Christian environments – where God’s love is needed even more – so that you can make way bigger ripples.

Overall – Take your passions, skills, experience, and love of helping people, and using those to cause the impact that God custom-built YOU to make. Forget the labels and expectations – they only take your eyes off of your important work.

What’s your exit strategy

I was reading Tim Ferriss’5-Bullet Friday” newsletter this week, and he briefly talked about Craig Newmark – founder of Craigslist – and referenced a quote he made:

“Death is my exit strategy.”

What a refreshing statement in a world that focuses on short-term gains and companies that are formed to get sold shortly after.

How cool would it be to find a calling that consumes so much of you and is so timeless that it’s not just a full-time job or a contract that lasts until retirement – but a lifelong mission that ends when you do, or even continues beyond you?

Just something to make you pause for a moment to check the work you’re doing right now. Hope you’re building something so valuable that the only buyout firm that can afford you is God =)

Devotional: Knowing my armor

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. ‘I cannot go in these,’ he said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off.” (1 Samuel 17:39).

This applies to all parts of my life.

If there is a project or task within it that I don’t understand, am not good at, and am not remotely curious or passionate about – I need to leave it alone and leave it to someone else who meets or will grow to meet those requirements. I have no business meddling in things God didn’t build me to suit, and I am guaranteed to fail.

Of course – there are activities that may not be my favorite thing to do or that may not seemingly be the best use of my time – that I’ll need to partake in.

How will I know the difference?

I believe that there are two conditions to figuring this out:

1. If God calls me to do it – which means prayer must happen first, and being aware of His answer thereafter; and
2. If it is a sign of love – if it shows someone you care and speaks their love language.

These two conditions are simple enough to direct all tasks that present themselves. I won’t have to feel confused about which road to take, and I won’t have to feel reactive.

Alarm clock & calendar futility

There will never be “the right time.” Our brain was programmed to protect us and keep us alive – not take chances and thrive us. It doesn’t like uncertainty, instability, or invulnerability; and you are only fooling yourself if you think you can will the brain to go against its hardwiring.

If that’s the case, how do you break out of this mold of just surviving, to pursue your passions that give your life meaning? I mean – it’s scary as heckers to go out of your comfort zone.

It’s about courage. You just need want something more than your fears, and take that first step.

You don’t even need to be confident – it’s super overrated. I’ve learned that most successful people were still scared – maybe even more so – after they took the action.

Don’t make it complicated, don’t over-think it, and don’t expect anything except the fact that you had the guts to do what you’re meant to.

Devotional: Feeling unqualified?

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” (1 Sam. 10:22)

In today’s Marketplace Leaders devotional, Os Hillman uses the story in the Bible where Saul was chosen to be the first king of Israel. And when it was time for the prophet Samuel to onboard him, he was no where to be found – to which God responded to the people questioning his whereabouts that he was hiding among the crowd.

Before all of this Saul had never led anybody – let alone an entire nation; and he had never had to be accountable to God or anyone else, really. He must’ve been so freaked – as he was inexperienced, incapable, and was tempted to stay safe in mediocrity.

But time and time again in the Bible – through Moses, David, even Jesus, etc. – God flies right past experience, knowledge, strength, and capacity – things that this world puts way too much emphasis on – and selects people for roles that they are incapable of achieving without God’s help, and would’ve never in their wildest dreams pursue.

He turns any negative or seemingly unrelated experience into ministry; He equips His chosen ones with unlimited, impossible power; and He directs them to discover and fulfill their purposes.

There are a few appointments in my life that I could easily avoid to ensure certainty, safety, and enjoyment – being a dad, a husband, a son, a multi-organizational worker, etc. But that would be a shallow life with no purpose, no growth, no appreciation, and that’s not what God uniquely made me to achieve.

If Saul chose those values and stayed hidden, Israel would not have thrived and opportunities for a relationship with God would not have happened. Imagine the eternal consequences of that.

If you knew you were meant to live for more than yourself, and that you had a mission that scares you to pieces because it stretches your comfort zone, isn’t in your know-how or muscle, and/or would be shunned by others…remember all of the people before you who have been in the same situation as you, took a leap of faith, and changed history. And remember that your mission is unique only to you, and if you don’t do it, no one else will and the world will be less-off without your contribution.

Live out your calling.

Flip-flop: My new goal in life…to be lazy

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This is part of a series called “Flip-Flop” – explained here.

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What happens when I get lazy?

My life becomes more enjoyable and productive.

Reading this article helped me to relax, cancel a few meetings and calls, rethink how I do things, and delete a few tasks from my to-do list…and I’m learning to be comfortable with this uncomfortable feeling.

(It’s thanks to Kevin Rose’s monthly email that I found this gem)

This reminds me of my aspiration of “saying ‘no’ to the good, so that I can say ‘yes’ to the great.” It’s so true that when I fill my schedule up with tasks – because I can’t sit still, because free time makes me feel like I’m not being productive, because it’s frowned upon in the workaholics world – I don’t create any white space to do what truly matters.

Taking care of my health. Reading a good book. Writing on my blog. Having a real, in-depth conversation with a loved one. Brainstorming a passion project. Spending time with my family. Helping people in need. Expanding my relationship with God.

I lose “hell yeah” opportunities because I’m so buried with “okay” or “good” opportunities. And the thought of surviving or dying of mediocrity sucks.

I need to change my perception of “laziness.” It should not be a bad word, but a filter for things that matter. It’s actually good for creating processes that make me more effective. The question I try and ask myself moving forward is:

“Because I am lazy and want to do things that truly matter, do I really need to do this? And if I really need to do this, what is the laziest way I can handle this so that I don’t ever have to do it again?”

As Tim Ferriss has taught me, being busy is the true, unhealthy form of laziness – it means you aren’t thinking, you don’t have your priorities straight, and you are avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.

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The picture above is a hammock from the Parker Palm Springs hotel – a favorite spot for my wife and I (where I first asked Christine to be my girlfriend…the rest is history). It was a weekend where we didn’t have the kids, and we did absolutely nothing. And it was the best time of our lives. 

Flip-flop: My kids need to mind their own business

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This is part of a series called “Flip-Flop” – explained here.

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Tim Ferriss and his interviewees continue to mess up all of my plans and ways of thinking. So frustrating and liberating at the same time lol!

I was listening to his interview with Ricardo Semler, who – despite his fame and fortune as a successful entrepreneur – does NOT involve his kids in his business.

He never talks about work with them, he never brings them to meetings, and he does not plan on letting them take his company over in the future.

I used to think that involving my kids in my business was good for them. I thought that it would inspire them to work hard; that it would be a way to show how important passion is; and that they could learn a few skills from their papa.

But I am changing my mind on how to share all of this in a healthier way, and that my current methods may be damaging them.

One of the worst things that a parent can do is force their own agenda on their kids. Sometimes – if they were successful in their field, admire a particular career, or regret not having a certain profession…they can unintentionally try and fit their kid into either one of those molds, and that’s a terrible mistake with long-term – if not permanent – consequences.

It disrespects their child’s individuality, doesn’t allow them to discover themselves on their own, and creates resentment and lost time.

I want to tell my story so that it inspires them, show them how excited I am to have found my purpose, and allow them to help out now and then if they are curious; but I need to remind them that this is me and that true success is finding who they are.

I’m still trying to figure out how to do this optimally, but my message is this: that God made each of us unique – our physical makeup, our talents and abilities, our experiences, and most importantly – our purpose. We as parents can inspire, build boundaries, and point them in the right direction – but I must do so with their separate path’s interests in mind.

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The above picture is from an event my kids participated in, where Christine, their biological dad, and I helped them build their own cardboard boat to race with in a fun competition with other kids. I caught myself at times trying to make my kid build the boat a certain way; and as soon as I realized that, and let go – I was able to enjoy following his lead, and these designs are what they came out with. Unique – just like them =)