Branch Rickey talking to Jackie Robinson before he took the field

Values Matter...

I recently watched a YouTube video about Jackie Robinson and his experience breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He did it with a great deal of courage, and with patience for the extremely narrow-mindedness and intolerance of people venting their hatred at him.

Baseball is a sport of extreme mental concentration and focus. Players are easily thrown off their game by even minor distractions. Yet Jackie, in spite of all the off the field (and sometimes on the field) abuse he suffered, was able to play top-notch baseball. He did it with an intensity and aggressiveness that eventually gained him the grudging respect of a nation that, in those days, still harbored deep prejudices. Many hated him for his skin color, but came to respect his skills and the way he conducted his life and played the game of baseball. Eventually, Jackie was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. To this day, he is the only player to have his number retired by all of baseball. One day each year all major league players wear number 42 in his honor.

Watching the YouTube video again reminded me of my admiration for Jackie, but this time my attention was drawn to two key players in the Jackie Robinson story. Branch Rickey was the President and General manager of the Dodgers, and the team owner was Bill Veeck. It was they who decided that something needed to be done to break the color barrier in baseball. They knew it would be futile to try to convince people to change their prejudices, or attempt to legislate change through the baseball commissioners office, so they made a courageous decision.

They just did it. They put a black man on their baseball team.

They didn’t do any market testing. They didn’t mount a publicity campaign to try to convince fans that “colored” people could and should play baseball at the highest level. They didn’t wait until it was an acceptable, normal practice. They put a black man on their team knowing full well that it would create a shock wave in the world of baseball, and that the man they selected would be subjected to extreme insult and abuse.

Why did these two businessmen, already successful and respected, want to disrupt the status quo of the baseball world? Why did they take on such a huge risk that would potentially threaten their already successful business?

They had the conventional goals of baseball team owners -- to own a successful, profitable business, and to prove themselves to be the best baseball club in the world by winning the World Series. But they shared another goal. Really more than a goal -- a sense of mission. They wanted, somehow, to make the world a better place. I don’t know that they ever thought of it as a mission or made any kind of “mission statement.” But that’s what it was. A mission.
It’s commonly understood in the business world that a business is all about making money and that’s it. Standard business wisdom is that businesses should be focused on the bottom line. Maximize profits. Grow the business. Increase value for the shareholders. When management loses its focus on the bottom line, stakeholders become angry, and industry/business experts criticise the business and its leadership.

Is that right? Is that all there is?

Let’s ask a few questions about this basic belief and see if we can find a deeper truth about the world of business.

1. Who are the stakeholders of a business?

It’s common to take a narrow view of stakeholders, defining them as those who have a direct financial interest in the business, such as owners, suppliers, lenders, and, of course, customers. But this narrow definition really limits our thinking about those who want to see the business succeed.

What about employees? Their income depends directly on the business. The majority of their day to day energy is spent in the business, Much of their fulfillment in life comes from the successes they experience in the business, as do many of their disappointments.

In the case of Bill Veeck’s and Branch Rickey’s “noble experiment” with Jackie Robinson, their employees -- baseball players, teammates -- were striving for the glory of November baseball, trying to win it all in the World series. Jackie Robinson increased that possibility dramatically. He led the Dodgers to six World Series.

What about the community? There is a symbiotic relationship between a business and its community. The community is much more than simply a customer base for the business. In many ways businesses are the face of the community for people local and afar. Ask any economic developer and he will tell you that the growth, stability and wealth of a community is directly tied to the businesses in that community.

In the case of the Brooklyn Dodgers, they were part of the face of that community. So much so that civic pride was tied up in their success. The community, not just the diehard fans, wanted to see them win.

2. What do stakeholders want?

I was recently at a conference for entrepreneurs, listening to a panel talking about sustainable business practices. One of the panelists interrupted the flow of thought by stating that when we are talking about sustainable businesses we must never forget that sustainable means profitable. Without profit there is no way that a business can sustain itself no matter what other practices they put in place. Profit isn’t the only motive, but if you lose sight of it the business won’t survive. So, it’s basic that all stakeholders want the business to be profitable. But do they want more than that?

Of course they do. And entrepreneurs need to know what their stakeholders want.

For entrepreneurs, their businesses are extensions of themselves...their baby... their way of making a mark on the world. Much of the impact they have on the world is made either directly or indirectly through their businesses.

As an entrepreneur what do you want? What kind of a mark do you want to leave on the world once you’re gone? How do you want to make the world a better place? Branch Rickey and Bill Veeck had a sense of mission. What is yours? Is the business getting you any closer to that goal? If not, are you in the right business? Are you operating in a way that will take you there, rather than the way conventional wisdom tells you to operate? You’re in the driver’s seat, but if you’re not taking your stakeholders into account, you may be driving on the wrong road.

What do your employees want? You might think they want better salaries, but look a little deeper, ask some deeper questions. They may not be able to articulate exactly what they want because they have probably never been asked this kind of question before, But ask anyway, and look for little clues that they give in the conversation. See how their wants and needs might match up with yours.

What about the community? This one can be a little confusing. Henry Ford once said that if he had asked the market what it wanted, it would have said “a faster horse.” Steve Jobs said that sometimes you just need to show the market what you have come up with and see the reaction. Sometimes the market might not be ready for what you are creating, and you may have to go back and reevaluate.

Pay attention to your stakeholders. Know them. And satisfy them -- make them happy. Your business will be more profitable, more satisfying, and it will create a better impact in the world if you do.

3. What does your business stand for?

Values matter. What you stand for matters. The way you conduct business and the way you treat people matters to customers, employees, owners, and the community in which you do business. Whether or not you have taken the time to think about it, values -- what you stand for -- matter, and they matter a lot.

You’ll find that your business stands for something, whether you plan it that way or not. So make it stand for something good. Something positive. Something satisfying.

How do you do that? Here are a few ideas.

In many ways your employees are your business. The question is, why do people want to work for your business? Pay? Of course, but there’s much more. Employees (surprise!) are people, and people are complex. Yes, they’ll trade time for money, but they need more than that. They need something to move them, something to talk about, something to get them excited about coming to work. Something to make them thank God it’s Monday so they can go back to doing what means something to them. I’m not saying they need to love every minute and every task. We all need to buckle down sometimes and do the hard things, but as Proverbs says “without vision, the people perish.” How can you inspire them and give them a worthwhile sense of mission?

You do it by sharing your own sense of mission. What do you stand for? What does your business stand for? Let your employees know. And if you haven’t figured it out for yourself, figure it out. Then share it with them. Most importantly, make sure that you and your business “talk the talk and walk the walk.” Words mean nothing without action. So make “right action” your motto. Do what’s right, what contributes to your sense of mission. And insist that your people do the same. They’ll love you for it, and your business will soar.

What about the community? Why should they buy from you rather than any of the other options available to them? And believe me, they have options. If you think that some combination of better, faster, cheaper is really going to attract long-term customers, think again. Yes, you will get business that way, but trust me when I say that someone will come along with a slightly better combination of better, faster, cheaper. If all you have to say to your market is that we are better, faster, and cheaper, then you’re simply joining the rat race. It’s time to rethink your approach to business.

Branch Rickey and Bill Veeck had a good baseball team, but they needed to make it better. The best way they could see doing that was to try something unconventional. They plucked a player from a pool that none of the other teams had tapped. They put someone on the field who didn’t look like everyone else. They had already decided that the color barrier was something that needed to be torn down and that doing so would make their community and their team a better place. They embarked on what they considered to be a noble experiment. Yes, it worked but they had no assurance in the beginning that it wouldn’t end in disaster. It was a calculated risk, a daring experiment. If Jackie hadn’t been good enough, the fan base would have rejected him and the team. But they were convinced that for the good of the team, for the good of the community they had to try. It was the right thing to do. Veeck and Rickey shared their sense of mission by walking the walk, by doing it. It took a while, but their team, and later their fans saw the light and wholeheartedly joined their sense of mission. They stood for equality and excellence, and the community joined them.

Values matter. What you stand for matters.

Recently business owners have been testing out different things

A little while ago I read about a tech company that took the drastic step of paying every single employee the same salary. That one didn’t end well. It created a lot of resentment from the employees. What Branch Rickey, and Ben and Jerry, and the tech company did weren’t without significant risks. So you have to be convinced that what you’re doing is the right thing to do.

A client of mine used to remind me of something he learned from the Davy Crockett show back in the 50s when he was a kid. “Make sure you’re right, then go ahead.” Being right doesn’t always mean you will be successful but it can still be right.

Another client of mine owned a very diner serving the typical American breakfast and lunch menu items, but he was dissatisfied. His restaurant stood for the wrong things. Its values didn’t reflect his own values. He knew that what he was selling, while tasty and popular, wasn’t really in the best interest of his customers, so he rebranded, reorganized the menu, retrained his staff and reinvented his restaurant. Instead of heating up frozen, prepackaged meals, his restaurant now serves almost everything made fresh, from scratch, on location, with no food colors or chemical additives. He made Gluten free and allergen free foods a priority. As he said, “what we eat matters.” He thought that there might be a market for this type of diner, but he wasn’t sure. He made the transformation based on the conviction that it was the best thing for his customers and the community. It would have been easy and safe to just continue selling what he was selling. But it wasn’t right for him. He wanted his business to stand for something better because he stood for something better.

You have a business. Your business gives you a place of influence in your corner of the world. What is it that you believe that most people around you either don’t believe or don’t have the courage to do? 

What do you stand for? 

Your business can be the instrument for making it real in your corner of the world. Walk the walk. Walk your walk
I have been watching our cities mayoral race with interest. The thing that seems to differentiate them most is their leadership style, or what they think of as leadership. Yes, they do differ on issues and it’s natural in a campaign to emphasize the issues that they differ on in order to distinguish themselves and attract voter. But I still think that underneath it all you see different styles of leadership.

The challenger has an underlying criticism of the current mayor, that they are not a strong leader, that they lack vision, that they haven't cast a vision for others to rally behind and pushed that agenda forward. The challenger claims that what our city needs is strong leadership and naturally he feels like he can provide that leadership that he sees the city is missing.

Both the challenger and others have been critical of the mayor’s leadership qualities.  In looking at it, I started to wonder why they don’t see the mayor as a leader. And I realized that maybe part of the problem is we think about this incorrectly and are looking for the wrong things because of our longstanding preconceived notions of what leadership is, what it looks and acts like.  

To explain this I think I need to point out that our current mayor is a woman and the challenger is a man.

Now if I were to ask you to name 10 of the top leaders down through history I would guess that on many of your lineups cards all 10 would be men. Now is that because men are naturally better leaders or is it a little more complicated than that? Is it possible that while we do have this dominance of historical male leadership figures, that this warps our thinking in this current age as to what leadership is and looks like? Is it possible that our perception of what leadership looks like is based on our historical amalgamation of leaders and the character traits they exhibit, and they way they get things done?

Are our views of leadership based largely on male style leadership not because they are the best or most effective but because they match the qualities of most of the leaders we look to in the past?

I will confess that while I liked the mayor, the way she operates and what she has been able to accomplish, that I too didn't see her as a strong leader, but does that say more about me then it does about her? I also am very affected by the dominance of male leadership down through history that made me think that there must be something intrinsic to maleness that makes for a good leader.  I mean come on, thousands of years of male-dominated leadership can't be wrong, can it? This perception on my part led me to think that leadership meant doing what is commonly considered male type things. Now I should interject and point out that whenever I use such broad strokes as characterizing something as male style leadership traits I am seriously generalizing because it's impossible to talk about male/female issues without gross generalization, so please grant some grace as you have probably already thought of exceptions to what I am saying. But back to what I was saying,  there are different ways that men and women tend to lead and they can both be very effective, the thing is that I tend to see only the things that men do as being strong leadership.

Generalization here, but men tend to have a position, vision or idea and then rally people around that idea, come up with a plan and then drive that plan forward hopefully gaining followers along the way until they have enough support to enact that plan. There is nothing wrong with doing things this way, but can I say that it's not the only way?

Something our current mayor has done extensively and quite effectively has been as issues come up she has brought different groups together, she has listened and probed, made sure people were heard and brought them to some kind of resolution or path forward. It’s called collaborative leadership and it’s often the way the women lead. Interestingly this often means that they don’t get as much credit individually but the credit goes to the team.

An example of this is when the city council had its annual strategic planning process and instead of bringing in an outside facilitator the Mayor led the brainstorming and agenda-setting process.  Their process was fairly simple, each of the council members had a chance to put down what issues they saw as important and then they began the discussion, arguing and prioritizing those issue points until they had their top issues resolved and had a path forward for what they were going to do in the next year.

An interesting point is that the Mayor's initial list of priorities didn't look anything like what the council walked out with, and looking at it from a strong male leadership style it would appear that she was a weak leader. She didn't drive her agenda forward like any good leader would. But coming out of it I heard more than one council member talk about how different and effective this strategic council meeting was from the meetings they had in the past.

Maybe the challenger and I both need to update our impression of what a good strong leader looks like? And how there is more than one way to lead a city forward.

Is business a force for good, something that frees people, or is it something that enslaves?

I was recently talking to a couple of people about issues of injustice in the world, everything from perpetual poverty, human trafficking, and the inability to stand up to oppression. Their causes were numerous and their methods different but it comes down to oppression of one person by another. If you try dealing with it by rooting out the oppressor, it doesn't work because there is always another bully waiting in the wings. The only long term solution that we could see was eliminating so much opportunity for oppression by helping a person gain economic mobility, economic freedom, economic self determination.

It reminded me of the story of Muhammad Yunus the author of Banker to the Poor, he was a professor of economics and instead of telling his students about economic theory he got them out into the villages to talk to real people about economics. He tells of visiting some of the poorest households in the town of Jobra Bangladesh in the late 70s to gain an understanding of the economic situation of the poorest people in that village.

One day they stopped at a run-down house with crumbling mud walls and a low thatched roof pocked with holes. He made his way through a crowd of scavenging chickens and beds of vegetables to the front of the house. A woman squatted on the dirt floor of the verandah, a half-finished bamboo stool gripped between her knees, her fingers quickly plaiting the stubborn strands of cane. She was totally absorbed in her work. On hearing his greeting, she dropped her bamboo, sprang to her feet, and scurried into the house. (woman weren't supposed to talk to strangers)

It took a little while of complimenting her on her three children who were scurrying around the yard and assuring her that he was harmless and just wanted to ask some questions before she came back to the door and would talk to him while holding her baby. She was in her early twenties, thin, with dark skin and black eyes. She wore a red sari and had the tired eyes of a woman who labored every day from morning to night.

He asked her about the bamboo stool that she was making and how long it took to make one. She replied that she could make one per day and that at the end of the day she would sell it for 24 cents he was surprised at how little knowing how much those same stools went for in the market and on further questioning found out that each day she had to borrow the equivalent of 22 cents from the merchant in order to buy the bamboo material to make the stool and that the terms of the agreement were that she had to sell the stool back to that same merchant at the end of the day for the below market rate of 24 cents. This gave her a daily wage of 2 cents per day for every day she could produce a stool.

He left that interview and couldn’t sleep that night thinking about this woman who was a very industrious hard worker but stuck in this cycle of poverty because of the lack of 22 cents capital to buy the raw materials. Even if she was savvy enough to go to the bank and make a case for a loan they wouldn’t touch her. She was stuck dealing with the loan shark of a merchant who kept her in bondage because of their system of lending.

How would her children break the cycle of poverty she was in?

How could they go to school when the income she earned was barely enough to feed her, let alone shelter her family and clothe them properly? It seemed hopeless to imagine that her babies would one day escape this misery.

It seemed to him that the existing economic system made it absolutely certain that her income would be kept perpetually at such a low level that she would never save a penny and would never invest in expanding her economic base. Her children were condemned to live a life of penury, of hand-to-mouth survival, just as she had lived it before them, and as her parents did before her.

He thought about just giving her the money. That would be so simple, so easy. But giving one person twenty-two cents was not addressing the problem on any permanent basis.

Her life was a form of bonded labor, or slavery. The trader made certain that he paid her a price that barely covered the cost of the materials and was just enough to keep her alive. She could not break free of her exploitative relationship with him. To survive, she needed to keep working through the trader.

This was the instance that sparked the creation of micro-finance and micro-loans. Muhammad Yunus started a program of loaning out small sums of money to these extremely poor women, many of whom used that money to get out of this vicious cycle and started their own businesses.

Micro-finance has done a lot of good in many areas but its limitations of only providing loans has in some cases caused more damage and gotten the people into another different cycle of stuck. Because they didn’t address the other areas of need in those people and businesses who are stuck in the bottom of the pyramid.

Muhammad Yunus and micro-finance were needed and revolutionary but went only part of the way to addressing one of these issues and that is the access to capital and they only addressed it with loans.

Today there are many organizations that provide micro-finance; there are websites such as Kiva, IMicroinvest, and the Microloan Foundation. There are many very good things you can say about these efforts, but there are a number of weaknesses with these models.

• They only offer loans
• There is no real transparency, just a story and a picture
• There is no ongoing updates of involvement by the investor
• There is no mentorship
• There is no training
• There is no business support provided
• There is no helping the entrepreneur to network and make connections that would help them

Even with all these missing elements and the problems that have shown up in the micro credit industry this basic approach helped so many of the most vulnerable to injustice members of society achieve economic mobility giving them a measure of security from oppression.

The thing that enables bullies around the world to prey on the weak isn't usually their brute strength but their taking advantage of their preys economic circumstances.

In our conversation about issues of injustice, Micah mentioned that the most common way that human traffickers attract their victims is asking them if they would like a job or would like to make some money or would they like to to to the United States. All three questions praying on their economic situation. We have this image based on movies like Taken of human traffickers finding their victims via thugs kidnapping young girls but much more common is to offer their victim a way out of their situation and the victim willingly follows them.

So, is business a force for good, something that frees people, or is it something that enslaves?
Business can be a tool to oppress others as you can see by the loan shark of a merchant who kept the woman in virtual slavery through his business tactics. But again it's a tool, in the wrong hands it's a tool of oppression. But what if you give that same tool to those at the bottom of the pyramid?

What if we did more then just giving them 22 cents and walking away, what if we did more then giving them a loan, what if we addressed more then just the immediate apparent lack of resources? What if dealt with their sense of lostness and void in their life that only a savior can provide? What if we not only gave them resources but also came along side of them and gave them support, mentored them, gave them opportunity to put into practice, to try creating something, to be entrepreneurial, to take this tool of business and raise themselves out of their weak and vulnerable state?

Business can be a force for good when it's truly available to all members of society. When it's only in the hands of a few those few too often become the oppressors. Lets see if we can give this tool of economic freedom to those who to those who don't have it and see what a force for good business can be.

Business schools and books will all talk about the need for your business to have a competitive advantage-- something to give your enterprise an edge in the marketplace.

However, their examples are usually based things that are easily counted such as price, speed or quality. There are advantages that go far beyond the "norms" of the "competitive advantage."

What about taking something that is perceived as a disadvantage and turning it around into a competitive advantage?

What about Autism as a competitive advantage, for example?

Check out this video of a Dad with an Autistic son who created a business model that doesn't just allow for, but brings out the strengths of people on the Autistic scale.

People on the Autistic scale have remarkable strengths, but they are different strengths than the majority of the population and usually different strengths than the owners of businesses.

This means that business owners who want to have a competitive advantage that involves their team often need to rethink their business model. Most business owners by default look for employees who are like them. This is a fatal flaw because if they are truly like you, then they will steal your business and become your competition.

What you are looking for is people who aren't like you. People who will bring their own unique sets of skills and strengths. The problem is that your business isn't ready for anyone that isn't like you. If you could clone yourself, then everything would be fine... right?

 In reality, that would bring its own set of problems.

The problem is that your business isn't setup to handle the right employees, There are people out there who could be awesome doing what you need done, but you're still looking for a clone of you.

Step back and take another look at your business. What do you really need? If you say some variation of  "I'm looking for hard workers who are committed to their job, don't have a lot of drama, and have the skill set of  ......", then you are going to be fighting all other job opportunities available due to the commonality of that answer. You can fight to attract this limited pool of people wooing them with higher salaries, but they are so employable that anyone else who can offer more receives them. You then end up complaining that you just "can't find any good people."

What if you looked outside of that box? What if you designed your business in ways that you can not only accommodate, but thrive with people who don't fit that narrow box of perceived "perfect employee" material?

That could be as the father above did in designing the business so that people on that autism spectrum can thrive. Or how about the group of mothers with kids in school? They are a unique group with their own specific strengths and weaknesses.

They have a different set of priorities where their work comes second to their kids.

They often have a great skill set that may be academically out-of-date but is enhanced by raising children. They have great attitudes because nothing you can throw at them is as difficult as keeping up with everything they encounter on a daily basis. They need a uniquely flexible environment that allows them to drop work and be with their kids who can't go to school that day because of a fever.

I have a client who built her business around not their client's needs, but around the needs of her employees; 90% of whom were mothers of young children who wanted to work while raising her family. The workday began at 9:00 and ended at 3:00. Many did not work 5 days a week, but instead worked a self-selected number of days per week. She had a long list of these women, and when one had kids with a fever she had a list from which to call to get another one in their place for the day.

The systems were such that each day had its own projects and they didn't carry overnight. She designed the business around the needs of her employees and her employees repaid her by doing an amazing job of taking care of the clients.

What about college kids with their own set of strengths and weaknesses? Can you provide an environment where their uniqueness could be brought out, allowing them to shine?

What about recent parolees from prison? Kind of scary at first thought, but could be amazing.
meme I play at church
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week, you have probably at least heard something about Pokémon Go. It was released on both the Apple and Google Play stores last Thursday, and it quickly became one of the top downloaded apps on both platforms. The app has become a viral sensation among teens and young adults, already overtaking Twitter in number of daily users. Of course, all the 90s kids are geeking out over this app, but, surprisingly, this app has actually attracted an even broader audience than the original games ever did. However, you don’t have to rely on the amount of downloads this app has to judge its popularity; just head downtown on any given evening and you are sure to see twice as many people as normal hanging out down there, phones in hand. You might even overhear some talk about the different Pokémon that they’ve been catching lately!

I know, you might be groaning at yet another app that has got young people’s faces buried in their phones. But, this app is actually different! It is one of the first games that is actually forcing people to get out and about. There are a lot of features in the game that require the player to actually go outside and walk around! It is also bringing people together as people are walking around, gathering in ad hock groups and just stopping each other to start up conversations about Pokémon. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself! Take a walk downtown and start asking random strangers to explain the game and help you get started and you will be sure to meet some great new people.

I think that, with the increase in people walking around in fresh air and interacting with other members of their communities, there is a big possibility that this game could have positive effects on mental health issues likes depression. I am also intrigued to see how this app might even begin to bring people and communities back together again. Serious gamers are stereotyped to stay holed up in their homes, by themselves, playing games in front of a screen for hours at a time, but this app is forcing them to get up and start walking!

before and after pokemon go

In case you haven’t already checked the game out for yourself, the Pokémon Go app turns the real world into a massive Pokémon hunting ground using your phone’s camera and GPS. Players use little red and white balls, which are called Pokéballs, in order to catch the Pokémon and build their collection. This app also transforms local landmarks, businesses and, here’s where it gets interesting, churches into Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops. Pokémon Gyms are places where higher level players can train their Pokémon and battle against other players and teams, while PokéStops are places where players of all levels can stock up on Pokéballs and other necessary game items. This might explain why you might have noticed more people hanging out around your church building recently, all with their phones in hand.

While this phenomenon is cool and all, what does it mean for churches? Simply put, it means that many churches will see an influx of people visiting and hanging around their church buildings on every day of the week. Theses churches can either act like the stereotypical grouchy old man yelling “Hey you rotten kids! Get off My lawn!”, or they can embrace the fact that this app is literally bringing young people to the church’s doorstep, and use it to their benefit. In fact, I have read a number of interesting articles about how businesses who happen to be PokéStops or Gyms, or are located to fairly close to one, are utilizing this craze to gain more business. Now, not every store is going to be a PokéStop or Gym, but what I have found interesting is that almost every church building is one or the other! So, while many church leaders are wringing their hands in worry about the millennial generation leaving church, they should be thinking about ways that they can use this app!

Here are some ways that churches can utilize this opportunity:
  • Download the app and take some time to check it out, so that you know what it is all about. If you are unsure about some of the games features, or how to play, you can always ask some of the young people hanging out at your church to help you out. It is a great way to start a conversation, and maybe even a friendship. Downloading the app yourself will also allow you to check out any Pokémon that are lurking around your building.
  • Check out what PokéStops or Pokémon gyms are located at your church building. If your building happens to be a gym, that is doubly awesome!
  • Be there! An empty building isn’t going to do anything for them, or you. If you can’t commit to being there yourself, ask some people in your congregation to be willing to hang out there at different times. Lawn chairs and lemonade optional.
  • Use lure modules! If your church is a PokéStop, you can buy a “Lure Module” that will attract a bunch of wild Pokémon to your church for 30 minutes. All players nearby will be alerted and will most likely start to gather to your church to catch the Pokémon.
  • Find out who in your congregation is playing the game and get a group together to walk around the neighborhoods surrounding your church building. If you don’t want to play yourself, you can always designate yourself as the person who makes sure the players don’t run into anything while playing!
  • Start a weekly or monthly activity where members of your congregation go to popular Pokémon Go locations to catch Pokémon and meet other young people. While there, you can hand out flyers about upcoming church events. This would also be a great opportunity to just get out there and meet some more people.
  • If your church is Pokémon Gym, people will probably spend more time there having battles, so what about allowing them to come inside? Set out refreshments and turn the air conditioning up and let them come play in a cool place. You could also allow players to connect their phone screens to the TV during battles, so that everyone can gather around and watch. The app tends to drain phone batteries and use up data pretty quickly, so you could even allow people to come in and charge their phones or use your Wi-Fi.
  • If your Church isn’t a Pokémon Gym or a PokéStop, you can still use this app to your benefit! Get out to your downtown landmarks and parks and strike up some conversations. Instead of poking fun at the craze, why not see it as a gift and use it to start conversations and get to know people?
If you are still reading, I have to acknowledge that these ideas might be a little crazy, and that they are just that: ideas. They have not been tested and tried, nor can I point to any examples of churches successfully using Pokémon Go. However, it has only been a week, and anything is worth a try! Historically, churches are not early adopters , they aren’t usually the first ones to jump on a new craze, well, except for that group of 12 men who decided to follow a carpenter… But Is it worth it to try and use this app to bring people to Christ? Will others laugh and poke fun at you for trying to use this as a way to reach out? Well, yes. They might laugh at you, but it is definitely worth a shot. God has a history of using strange means and working in mysterious ways.

If you have seen a business or a church using this movement in interesting ways please share in the comments.
Depression is a dark and frustrating place to be in no matter what you do for a living. Entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when depressed. That's because for many entrepreneurs, their personal mental outlook directly affects their business outlook.
When you're depressed, you're not productive. When you're not productive, your business suffers. When your business suffers, your depression deepens. And the cycle continues and can become more insidious with every iteration.

Entrepreneurs know that their business successes are personal successes -- and their business challenges are personal challenges. The phrase “it’s not personal; it’s business” doesn’t apply to them. And so a personal struggle like depression leads to business challenges

Depression in the life of a business owner is so often hidden away and internalized-- after all, you're never allowed to show that you are struggling.

I was at a conference recently where a successful entrepreneur was being interviewed about his success and struggles. I've heard these type of interviews so many times that they have become repetitive and boring but the reason this one stood out was his vulnerability and transparency about the struggles he had in the past and still has today but he often pointed out that even while he and the business were struggling they had to put on a good face to the community, clients, vendors and especially the investors and the bank. he used the phrase that running a successful company depended on using a smoke and mirrors approach that hides any weakness. You can't run a business without putting a good face on things, and as some people put it, "fake it till you make it". This makes us hide any struggles that we have. Part of what gives depression its power is the shame -- and the need to conceal those feelings to give off the aura that everything is awesome, business is great and I'm doing fantastic. We desperately need openness and transparency but the balance between transparency and the need for "smoke and mirrors" is a hard balance to find when running a business.

Yet how can we deal with this problem if we can't acknowledge that it exists? Brad Feld, a early leader in the tech startup world, admits his own struggles with depression and tells us that depression is very common in the startup realm. Though often internalized and hidden away, despite the way we increasingly admit and even celebrate failure in the startup community, we still don't like to acknowledge depression as a struggle “For some reason we’ve embraced failure as an entrepreneurial trait that is okay,” he wrote, “but we still struggle with acknowledging and talking about depression.”

As a business coach I have dealt with so many business owners who deal with depression, most would never admit it or call it that or even realize it. But as their business coach, I am the one person who they can be transparent with and openly admit that their business/life sucks. They tell me about the nights lying awake staring up at the ceiling, indigestion boiling up their esophagus worrying about their business, their family, their employees families, their own life. They tell me how bad the collitus is getting, how they are desperately looking for a way out that they aren't sure exists.

And as business owners you can't get around the tie between personal and business, your business struggles will cause you to struggle personally and your personal issues show up in the business.

So how do you deal with it when it's so intertwined? Where do you start? Does fixing the business fix the personal issues, or does changing the business owner's mental state change the trajectory of the business?

There is no "one way." You can tackle this from either end, improve their business-- then it's easier for them to deal with their personal health issues, help them see the truth instead of the lies that they are believing and their business likely will start improving.

But this type of situation really speaks to the need for a coach, someone that they can be transparent with. Someone who can look at their situation without emotion and fear, who can see reality and communicate that reality back to them, someone who can spot the obvious to anyone else hole in the boat that is sinking their business.

Better than trying to tough it out and endanger the life of the business on which many lives are depending, including your own. Better than internalizing the struggle and making your life suck and possibly shorter. Find a business coach who has been down that road before with all it's craziness and try opening up and have them lead you on a healthy path out of depression for both you and your business.
Consider this problem for a moment: 

Simplicity, Leonardo da Vinci

This is fun to do, but it really illustrates a good point about how we tend to over-complicate things. When you figure out the pattern in this picture, it is a "palm slap to the forehead" moment where you realize the utter simplicity of the pattern. A friend from down under calls these moments BFO’s (Blinding Flash of the Obvious).

I have seen so many business models; in particular, those put together by people with advanced degrees where I walk away thinking, “He is obviously really smart, I just can’t seem to grasp the business." With some very rare exceptions, the overly complex plans never do work out (unless it is in a movie where the more complex the plan is the better plan... think of any of the Ocean’s 11 plots).

But in business, simpler is almost always better. As Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." In business, you don’t get extra points for the difficulty of the plan, you don’t get points for style, you don’t get points for sophistication. You get points for doing the simple things well.
Are you giving your clients too many options?

Are you trying to cover too broad of a market?

A very successful investor one time said that unless you can illustrate what a company does using a crayon and sheet of paper, don’t ever invest in that company.

Try explaining your business on one sheet with a large marker… can’t do it? Then try again until you have simplified it.

Years ago, my dad taught me something important. He showed me how to take a 20 minute nap by lying on the floor and putting your feet up on a chair. This position helps out in a number of different ways.

This position is surprisingly comfortable when you first lay down but becomes uncomfortable over time. It will wake you up within 30 minutes of when you first fall asleep.

This helps out when you are alone and don’t want to set an alarm.
It helps to get the blood flow out of your feet and back to your head.It's amazing how much better your feet feel after this type of nap! I have used this technique to take power naps for years.

Sometimes, however, we want to take longer than 20 minutes. Here's a useful infographic to determine how long to nap if 30 minutes isn't enough:

I have previously written about my own struggles with depression and the particular struggles that entrepreneurs have with depression based on my experience of coaching many of them. but once you realize that you might actually struggle with depression yourself then what next?

So how do you actually go about dealing with it? Let me try to give you some practical ideas, but first a few caveats:

I am far from an expert in the area of depression, I have read a total of one book on the subject and while enlightening, it was short on how to deal with it.

Second, and I am really struggling with how to explain this without coming across as arrogant or elitist but these ideas aren't meant to be a solution for everyone-- this isn't a "one size fits all" approach in dealing with depression. I am writing this to entrepreneurs, people who don't just passively take what life gives them but actively goes out and creates what life didn't hand them, People who not only can see something that doesn't exist, but can then mold the world around them to match that idea. people who don't whine and complain but make things happen, people who have a history of self-motivation, of moving men and mountains. I don't say all that just to flatter you, but to acknowledge that you look at life differently than most, you're one of the crazy ones, the dreamers that Apple talks about in its commercial, the ones who think different. this is written for you.

Admit to yourself and others that you are depressed.
There have been times in my life where this one thing has turned the corner on different times of struggling with depressed thinking. I will tell you that mine hasn't been a continual struggle with depression, but more dealing with periods-- be they weeks or months or years-- when I spiraled downward in my thinking and decisions and had to acknowledge the fact that I was actually struggling with depressed thinking and needed to turn my thinking around. Admittedly, I wasn't so far down the path that I could just stop myself in my tracks and realize I was on the wrong path mentally and find the right path again. so really for anyone seriously struggling, this is only a first step but for me sometimes this one step has change the trajectory of my thinking and was the key for moving past my feelings of depression.

Realize you are believing some lies and keep track of the lies that you believe.
This may sound strange when I say "lies that you believe" because it doesn't make sense that if you know something is a lie that you would continue believing it, right? Well, maybe I am the weird one here, because if you asked me I could at any time give you a list of some of the lies that I currently believe. Because "believe" is more than just a mental thing, it's an emotional thing that moves us, motivates us, determines how we act and react in this crazy illogical thing we call life. I believe things about the way others think about me that there is no way I can know whether they are true or not and when I think about I am pretty sure they are false but that doesn't stop me from responding to them based on the lies that I keep telling myself.

No one else could tell you what those lies are in your life, but I can guarantee you that you have them and that you respond to the world around you based on your belief in those lies, some of them you may not yet realize are lies but I am pretty sure that if you think about it, you will be able to point out assumptions that you are basing your life on that you can't definitely tell are true no matter how strongly you feel them and in some cases if you are honest with yourself you can tell that they are most likely false. yet you still believe them and your self-talk is constantly reinforcing this lie causing you to live them out.

What are these lies in your life? List and track them as they enter into your mental conversation. If you are anything like me, you won't be able to immediately change the way you respond to the world based on this, but over time keeping track of the lies we tell ourselves can go a long way toward changing our thinking and through changing our thinking, changing the way we respond to the world.

Change what's going into your head:
Old Programmers maxim, if the output is different than what you expect, check your inputs.
If you don't like the what's coming out of your head and your life, then check on what's going into it.

What's going into your head?
What are you reading?
What are you listening to?
What are you watching?

What's going into your body?
What are you eating?
What are you drinking?
What kind of sleep are you getting?

You can't change all these things at once, I doubt you have the consciousness, willpower and stamina to change all these things at once but if I know you at all I know you have the ability to chose one or two of these inputs and live consciously enough to deliberately change them for the better. Take a look at the inputs in your life and decide which of them need to change.

Radically change things, change your perspective, change your environment.
In the movie Dead Poet's Society, Robin Williams' character got his students to do the strange thing of standing on their desks in order to just gain a new perspective of the role that they were in.
Move your office - either temporarily or permanently - go work at a coffee shop
Clean your office - I call this clearing the decks for action, remove every scrap of paper, knickknack or not absolutely essential item off of any surface in your office or work area. even if it just gets piled into a drawer
Mess with your routine - take a vacation, take a trip, go to work early, leave work early, go for a walk, go for a swim, allow yourself to take a nap, I don't know what but change something, your currently in a mental rut so change your routine

Will changing your environment change your thinking? Not necessarily. But sometimes it is just what is needed in order for you to start to see things differently

Bring someone else into the picture:
AA knows that in order to make significant change you need to involve someone else in your life as someone to be transparent with, to help when your struggling and to hold you accountable. Find someone with an outside perspective, someone who is willing to tell you the truth and who you can be truthful and transparent with.

Look I know you can beat this, you know you can beat this but that doesn't mean you don't need any help whether that be being honest with yourself, self awareness of your thinking, changing the inputs in your life or just plain changing things or involving other people,  This may not be all that you need but it's my attempt to give you a starting point to deal with it.
What happens when your business depends on you being a motivated driving force, but you don't feel that motivation?
When the fact that you are your own boss and have to kick yourself in the butt isn't working because you just plain don't feel like it?
When your long-term success depends on you focusing on a long term project that is hard but you are having a hard time seeing that far down the road?
When you need to be focusing on the hard projects that don't have a short-term positive impact but you would rather tackle the quick-fix items on your list that have negligible long-term value but give you that short-term feeling of accomplishment?
Or even just drop the task list and play a video game with its constant feeling of accomplishing something but really accomplishing nothing?
What do you do when no one is going to tell you to get out of bed in the morning and get to work and you just don't feel like it?
When you used to thrive on 6 hours of sleep a night and woke up brimming with potential ideas and thrilled with a new day but now you seem to need at least 8 hours and wake up frustrated with all the undone stuff you put off yesterday and still need to do today.
You've stopped yearning to fill your mind with good information from books and lectures and instead want to occupy your mind with trivialities and movies.

At some point, you realize you just might be struggling with depression.

Depression... I can't be struggling with depression. I'm the eternal optimist, I'm the self-motivated one, I'm the one who not only keeps myself motivated but motivates those around me, I'm the one everyone looks too to make sure everything is okay, I'm the leader, the driver, the one others look to for direction and inspiration.

I can't possibly be depressed... can I?

Isn't depression is something experienced by those sad souls who have no ambition in life and just go to work and come home and sit on the couch in front of the TV and live for the weekend or those who don't even have a job or direction in life? That's not me... how can I be depressed?

No one would ever look at me and say, "there goes someone who is depressed", they point to me as a motivated high-achiever. I remember a story where someone working with a successful litigator came to the realization that this lawyer was drunk a large portion of the time and when he questioned him about it, the lawyer called himself a high-functioning drunk. I think I am a high-functioning depressed business owner.

I know that Depression is something that a large portion of the population struggle with, some have struggle with it for periods lasting months or years and others struggle with it at some level their entire life. But that can't be me, right? Depression is for other people and if I am to be brutally honest in the back of my very judgmental mind, depression is an excuse used by those weak people unable to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. How could I be struggling with depression?

Yet the more I want to deny it, the more it looks and acts like depression, then maybe it really is depression.

So where do I go from here... I mean, this is kind of embarrassing, this isn't me, I'm not supposed to be this person. Yet I can see myself making bad decisions, not big ones or even noticeable ones, yet, but bad decisions all the same and I'm starting to see one bad decision leading to another and another in a cascading effect that may not be apparent on the surface just yet but if left unchecked will lead to larger, more impactful decisions. Yet the strange phenomena of the personal embarrassment and guilt feelings of watching myself make bad choices causes me to feel even worse, cycling me further down the path.

Never having struggled with alcoholism myself, I have still learned so much by talking to those people who are in AA alcoholics anonymous. the principles behind that organization are so sound and so in tune with our fallen nature as people, our need of God and our potential as image bearers and children of God. the First step is admitting that you are an alcoholic made famous by the statement "Hi, I'm _______ and I am an alcoholic"

Part of what gives depression its power is the shame -- and the need to conceal those feelings to give off the aura that everything is awesome, business is great and I'm doing fantastic.

Well, here goes: "Hi, I'm Seth, and I'm depressed."