Devotional: Becoming a servant

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…” (Matt. 20:26)

Reading this passage makes me think about all of the career positions I’ve held in the past.

Before I re-dedicated my life to Christ and put my identity in Him, I wrongfully put my identity in labels that my work gave me: Senior Director, Partner, Founder, and Co-Owner, etc.

I felt pretty hot giving people my business cards and sending emails with with signatures that held these job titles.

Now – I’m reminded that being a real leader has never had anything to do with rank; but how many people I can truly help. When you solve problems for people, you have influence in their lives and can make a real impact.

Today – when you step out of the house and start your day, think about how you can help a perfect stranger; someone who needs a mentor; a boss, a partner, a colleague, or someone who works for you; a client or vendor; someone who has helped you; someone who can’t help you…anyone, without any expectation of repayment.

Grace, blessing, and compensation are byproducts – so don’t worry about it. Worry about serving.

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Throwback: If you want to make $1M…

This is part of a series called “Throwback” – where I revive journal entries and blog posts written/posted on this very day, years ago.

Written on June 30th, 2015 (two years ago), I started reading Tony Robbins’ new book at the time. I loved this passage.

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…find a way to help people make $10M, or add $10M of value. It’s all about just making yourself more valuable in the marketplace than what you’re paid.

Thought of the day.

From Tony Robbins’ “Money: Master The Game”

Devotional: Has God taught me NOTHING?! Maybe (in a good way)

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

I’m wondering if God called me out of employment to teach me…nothingness.

At least, from a worldly sense.

Today’s “TGIF” Marketplace Leaders devotional gives us a heads up that there will be times in our walk with God where he will place us in a state of isolation and waiting. Where our past experiences are of no value, and there are no new opportunities to activate us and keep us busy. A situation in which expected resources or activities are removed and there is nothing I can do to change them.

It’s a super uncomfortable feeling for me. From age 15 until now, I’ve built a ridiculous work ethic. In high school I had full-time classes and homework during the weekdays and a full-time work shift on Saturdays and Sundays. In college I had work from 9a to 5p and classes from 7p to 9p every weekday, with homework to fill in the gaps. And up until I submitted my letter of resignation at Fransmart, I was working full-time at the company and also developing The Halal Guys restaurant chain with my partners in Southern California.

Grinding was just part of my DNA for the last 20 years.

I have to laugh, because while I am currently unemployed from the standpoint of having a W2 paycheck, I’m actually still doing quite a bit of work: I’m still growing The Halal Guys; I’m still working with Fransmart as an independent developer; I started a nonprofit organization; and I’m consulting and managing projects here and there.

I guess I’m just feeling weird about not having a “job” job, and I’m thinking that maybe God is telling me that what I have is enough to focus on. I should probably heed this nudge now and be thankful for what I’ve got, or He may play the “tough love” parent card and continue taking more away from me until I realize that He is more than enough and that I just need to depend on Him and not the tangible, temporary provisions of the world that I am guilty of leaning on.

An image that comes to mind is the performance of a full computer hard drive, versus one that has less in storage. The latter doesn’t wear out the hardware; what currently is in the system operates faster and more optimally; and there is less crashing.

Lord – help me be comfortable with this uncomfortableness; help me be stronger than the natural inclination to add more projects; help me be thankful for what I already have, because what You’ve given me is enough; help me be present, still, and know that You really are God.

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.

The world’s credit versus God’s credit

Even if people don’t recognize or appreciate your ministry, God knows all about it & will reward you accordingly. No deed goes unnoticed by the Father.

Creditworthiness by the world’s standards is either counterfeit or loses value very quickly. Your accomplishments for the Kingdom compound infinitely.  Invest and work accordingly.

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.

Throwback: Rwanda- and purpose-bound

This is part of a series called “Throwback” – where I revive journal entries and blog posts written/posted on this very day, years ago.

Written on May 23rd, 2013 (four years ago), after I had asked my CEO Dan Rowe for a temporary leave to prepare for and serve on a missionary trip in the country of Rwanda – where a team of us spent time with the poor and helped them build sustainable preschools that hopefully gave them life-changing power.  

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I had a hope that reset blog would be done just in time for my mission trip to Africa; and thanks to making time and an amazing web site designer, it met the deadline.

I am very entrepreneurial and hard-working by nature; and I used to subscribe to the philosophies of: “I work 80 hours a week so that I can avoid working 40 hours;” “I can sleep all I want when I’m dead;” “Work now so that you can enjoy life later;” and a host of other Kool-Aid flavors I was drinking and getting unhealthy sugar-highs from.

There are a series of events that happened in my life that caused me to change all that – and I’ll save that for future blog posts – but learning the hard way, finding my way back to God, being introduced to Tim Ferriss and the 4-Hour Workweek philosophy, Zen Habits, and other signs and nudges…compelled me to make some major, major changes.

For the focus of this blog post, I’ll mention the major one: I changed employers.

Whereas I used to work for Fransmart full-time as their Senior Director – I am now working full-time for God and serving people. Fransmart gives me work I enjoy, and I do quite successfully at it – but my main purpose is to do eternity-based work that I was created to do, and money does not last.

What lasts are God, His Word, and people. That’s a compensation that no firm on earth can match; a retirement that lasts forever; work that is recession proof; and work that is truly meaningful.

It was scary and I am taking a huge risk and leap of faith…but I have confidence that God will provide. And so far, because of the move to leave my career, Fransmart generously offered to keep me on payroll as an advisor. I’ve learned that I don’t need too much money to be happy (in fact, it may be a hindrance, actually); I am no longer stressed by and make any money-based decisions (and those type of decisions are always poorly-played out); and I am thoroughly enjoying my new lifestyle.

One of my biggest life decisions was to go on a mission trip to Rwanda to build preschools for the materially poor children there. It’s an initiative under The PEACE Plan via Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California – one of the biggest churches in America. The idea that I could be used by God to bring people closer to Him; lift the materially poor out of poverty and its horrible effects (sex/labor trafficking, drugs, violence, gangs, etc.); help people become self-sustainable; and in the meantime work on my own brokenness, because I have issues, too…I couldn’t think of a better use of my time, than time spent with and for Him.

 

It’s crazy – I don’t know anything about construction, school planning, caring for children, teaching, etc. but I love children and knew that God would fill in the gaps and details.

And fill in, He did – God has blessed this initiative above and beyond, and I haven’t even touched down in Kigali, yet:

  1. For me, He used my love and knowledge of social media, business, and marketing to build awareness and shared excitement for this and future trips. I believe He’s been working on me in preparation for this – and spiritual maturity takes time.
  2. Financially, the initiative has gotten so much monetary support – that not only are the intended project needs met, there are enough funds to build 1 more school than initially planned (I am out there to follow-up on 3 schools already up and running, and identify sites for 3 more). I am so humbled by God’s people and their like-heartedness, and the power of prayer.
  3. And for my team – teachers, child psychologists, and people who have been to Rwanda have joined my team and will be working alongside me.

Whoa. Talk about getting hooked up.

I am currently typing this blog post from my plane flight from New York City to Brussels, before making the final connection from there to Kigali, Rwanda. I’m not sure how the Internet access will be there; nor will I know if I’ll even have time to write – as I might be out all day working – but I am honored to be doing this mission and sharing it with you.

You can keep your job; but reset your answer when asked who you are truly working for.

Devotional: The unlikely army

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” (Joel 3:9-10)

I’ve never read this passage before, but really like it. Thank you, Marketplace Leaders devotional. God speaks through you guys =)

Serving God’s kingdom doesn’t just take place on the mission field for two weeks in another country; or only on Sundays during church service. It doesn’t just take place on your spare time or your spare change.

It happens where you spend most of your day – in the workplace.

Plowshares and pruning hooks are what farmers use to do their work; and while those tools could stay ordinary, functional, and tangible – God can transform them into extraordinary weapons that defeat mediocrity, earthly provision and possession, and purposelessness.

They can be used to fight unseen forces, acquire treasure that last forever into eternity, inspire others, and win others for Christ.

This isn’t an isolated event, either. I’m reminded in other parts of the Bible that God used Moses’ shepherding staff to exhibit God’s power when leading the Israelites out of captivity. Or David’s sling – which was used to ward off animals that threatened his flock – that was used to defeat the Philistines and save his nation. There are plenty more examples.

God works where you work. What a coincidence #sarcasm

What does that look like in my world of restaurant, entrepreneurship, advisory, and nonprofit work?

For me – It’s conducting business with full integrity; loving people and using money and NOT the other way around; tithing at least 10% of the income I receive back to the Lord; writing on my blog and posting on my social media platforms; speaking up against business injustices – sexual harassment, embezzlement, unethical practices, etc; inspiring others and speaking God into their lives when mentoring; and understanding that while I may be the president or partner or senior director at the various companies I work at – God is the true Chairman of the Board, CEO, 100% shareholder, employer, and advisor…and to work accordingly.

Hope this fuels your work day with renewed sense of purpose and power.

Devotional: Free but still acting like a slave

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.” (Josh. 24:13)

This Bible references the story of the Israelites escaping bondage in Egypt and entering the freedom of The Promised Land; where they no longer were owned by taskmasters who forced them to slave away all day and night, but were in a place of peace, provision, choice, and life.

“The Promised Land” – as described in Marketplace Leaders – is the place where we receive all God intended for us to receive. Our purpose, grace, and blessings are given freely here for those who believe and trust Him.

What blows my mind – and I’m guilty of this too, a lot – is that while most of us have this gift of being free…our mind, habits, and actions still reflect that of being confined in Egypt.

For us workaholics, we still believe that provision is only given AFTER we’ve worked hard, and taking time to enjoy the life in front of us can be perceived as laziness.

Our society glorifies “grinding” and a work ethic that is unsustainable and erodes our health and relationships.

I’m trying to get used to this idea that it’s not blood, sweat, and tears that produce provision, but it’s obedience. It’s not my own agenda that’s filled with ignorance, selfishness, and ago – but His will.

What a concept; and one I aspire to experience. I want work less and produce more. I want to only be focused on what matters, and detox the rest. I want to enjoy my family, my health, and serve others. I want to work smarter and not harder.

Surrender to your own mediocrity

This is amazing advice I got from listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast interview with author and super-creative, Cheryl Strayed.

When you accept that you’re not perfect and neither are your contributions to the world, it will instill the humility you need to get help, to stay curious, to desire more knowledge, to gain more perspective, to be grateful when you win, and to accept failure as a necessary ingredient to progress.

It also takes the pressure off of having to do “great” work – pressure that will never get you started; and if you do get started, it won’t be authentic. It will help you to actually take the first step, and actually do the work itself.

Ego and unreasonable expectations are the enemy. Embrace your humanness, get out of your way, and share your passion with the world.