“The most dangerous risk of all: the risk of spending your life not doing
what you want on the bet you can buy the freedom to do it later.” - Anonymous

Why would you ever start a business?

The first reasons are ones we’ve all heard before; be your own boss, get rich, have more freedom. These are valid reasons, but is there more?

Molly and Jeremy, recently married, found themselves at an interesting crossroad. Jeremy, was now a civilian, having just come off his second deployment to Iraq. Molly had finished seminary and was an ordained minister, but didn’t yet have a church to lead. They had no commitment to a community or anything else, other than each other. They were looking for a place to put down roots.

The world and all its possibilities were before them. Now, what to do with it?

Jeremy had long thought about owning his own business after his military service. He spent a lot of time studying business and business models during his downtime in Iraq, trying to figure out what kind of a business he could launch. He had loved teaching leadership at various military schools. Molly was looking for a congregation to teach, build up, and minister.

It was an epiphany -- an “aha” moment, and a big one -- that made all the difference in their lives. It set them in the right direction.

They both wanted to do something worthwhile with their lives, he with a business and she with a congregation. And they both wanted a community in which to grow and build. A minister naturally seeks a community to serve, and they both knew that finding the right community would be central to Molly’s ambitions. But, until their big “aha” they thought a business was simply a way to make money, and a good business would be a fun way to make money. Molly’s ministry would be a source of satisfaction; Jeremy’s business would be a source of money.

Then the “aha” hit them. Not all at once, but over the course of a lot of talking and planning. It started with a question.

How could they start a business that will not only allow them to be their own boss and to be rewarded financially as the business grows but to also design it with the idea of them making an impact in the world through changed lives?

To meet both those objectives would require some serious forethought and planning.

They knew that they wanted it to be a gathering place of people
  • Restaurant? - not really having any experience in restaurants and the complexity of running an independent restaurant - doesn’t seem like the best fit.
  • Bar or brewery - good gathering spot but it really wasn’t their scene or passion and would not attract the people they wanted - not even seriously considered.
  • Coffee shop - now this is closer, a meeting place for a wide spectrum of people, but the market is fairly mature and they would be trying to break into an existing market.
  • Ice cream store, hmm interesting, attracts that youth demographic but it’s also a fairly mature marketplace with lots of entrenched competition.
  • Frozen Yogurt (Froyo) attracts the right cross-section of people, rapidly growing niche, the small city of Holland that they wanted to live in didn’t currently have any froyo shops. 
They started looking and found some attractive franchise companies who had figured out a lot of the logistics and business model. They decided on buying an Orange Leaf Franchise and to take the plunge into business ownership.

Molly wanted a place that she could bring in groups of teen girls for bible studies and a place where they could hire young people and mentor them through working at the business. They found a location and launched.

They went through the usual business startup issues, early losses, competition moving in, figuring out how to run it, figuring out how to hire and train. The business worked and was profitable, not as much as they wanted it to be, but still profitable.

But the question is, did this business add to their life or take from it? There are many in our society who have accepted that their job will suck and will drain the life out of them but it pays the bills and so they grudgingly go to work each morning. But this should never be the case for a business owner, after all, a business owner has more invested, they have taken on a lot more risk and they put up with a lot of extra hassle. So a business should both reward them financially but also help to give them the life they want.

I often tell people that the purpose of your Life isn’t to serve your business but the purpose of your business is to serve your life, to give you more of it.

Molly and Jeremy are the rare entrepreneurs who sat down before they even decided on a business to start and determined what kind of a life they wanted to live. They thought about and talked about what made them tick, what kind of a dent they wanted to put into the universe, what kind of a ministry they wanted to have in the community.

They figured out their core purpose. What makes them tick as people.

Then they very intentionally launched a business that not only made money but also gave them this kind of a life. They made sure before it even opened that the strategic intent of the business matched up to the core purpose that they had identified for their lives.
Entrepreneurship is mentally and emotionally hard. It takes a great deal of self-reliance and deep internal endurance to continue when you want to quit. Being an entrepreneur is hard because it’s on you. Success is on you. Results are on you. Making the call, doing the things you don't like to do...all on you. Making it requires willingness to be uncomfortable yet still push forward. To know that you might be uncomfortable, you might be in pain, you might be embarrassed, and you’ll certainly be challenged, but you’ll still persevere. Any marathon runner will tell you that strong legs help, but what defines a marathoner is the ability to continue running when your body says stop. Your body will rebel and start screaming at you to stop--right now--but your mind tells your legs to keep going. One more step. And another. And another.

I was recently at the Grand Canyon with my family and naturally wanted to hike to Phantom Ranch at the bottom and then back up. But as I talked to the rangers about doing it in one day, they said, “No way. That’s a hike for really experienced hikers.” I mentioned that my 9-year-old son wanted to go with me and they said “absolutely not,” so, being a responsible parent and respecter of limitations that authority figures lay on me, I went right on planning our hike. We left our RV at 5:45 AM and caught a bus to the trailhead. At the rim of the canyon, when we started, the temperature was in the high teens, and at the bottom it was in the 70s, which makes clothing an interesting challenge, especially when you want to bring extra warm clothes for just in case situations. I wasn’t sure if there would be food or water available on the way so I brought enough of both for the entire day of hiking plus extra for safety.

An interesting thing about hiking the Grand Canyon is that you start out going downhill but you end the day climbing uphill. So as we started out Christian was loving it. He wanted to climb ever rock face and explore every little side pocket and trail as any boy naturally would.


So we started a conversation that spanned the entire day, about what it was going to take for him to make it all the way back up to the top. I talked to him about running marathons, how when you are at the starting line and feeling great, but you know that in a little while you will be in pain and beyond tired. At that point it’s up to you to draw down that mental toughness to keep going, taking that next step and the one after that. I talked to him about being prepared for that time so that when it comes he would be ready mentally.

Seriously biased dad here but he was amazing. He handled it like a champ. He was ahead of me for the 9 miles down, but the downhill section isn’t the time that tries men's souls. After Lunch at Phantom Ranch we started the trek up and after a long time came to the final 3 miles of steep switchback trails. This is where your feet feel like you have 10 lbs weights on them. He knew this was coming and knew it would be hard. But he never complained. Not once. We made it to the top with daylight to spare. He was one tired but happy boy. So was I.


Now you can read this and say, Yay Christian good for you! And yes he did great, but what’s interesting is what has happened since that time. It’s been over a year now, and he and I have jogged the stairs up and down the dunes, jogged through the sands, swam roughly ⅓ of a mile in the waves of Lake Michigan, and gone through some gruelling soccer practices. Never once has he said he couldn’t do it, or that he was too tired to go on. Once or twice he brought up the fact that this was tough, but not as tough as the Grand Canyon hike.

That hike did something inside of him. Something deep in him now knows that when the going gets tough he can keep going. He has a mental anchor. He knows he did something hard once and made it through. I think that, in a small but important way, that day hiking the Grand Canyon will stick with him forever.

This past Summer he expressed an interest in making some money. After we talked about what he could do, we made a plan, and I printed some business cards for him. Then came the hard part. We went door to door in our neighborhood and he knocked on every door and told them about his business, leaving each of them with a business card magnet for them to put on their fridge.

In case you’re not aware, going door to door selling your services is HARD.

He’s 9 years old so he still has a little bit of that cuteness factor going for him, but anyway you cut it, it’s hard to muster the courage to walk up to a stranger’s door, knock, and then tell them about your business. Don’t believe me, try it sometime.

I knew it would be hard and that he might not be able to make it on his own (just as he might not be able to make the Grand Canyon hike alone), so I went with him, talked him through it, and encouraged him along the way. I Played up the positive responses and downplayed the negative ones. I never went up to the door, but stayed on the sidewalk like a trick or treating dad, because he had to be the one to knock and give his talk. He didn’t want to do his first house, but that went well so he was ready to try some more. After about 20 he said he was kind of done for the night, so we walked home. We’ve gone out a few other nights and each time it’s easier because he did something hard the first time and lived to tell the tale.

Let your kids do hard things. Let them be uncomfortable. Don’t make it too easy on them. Their future selves need to know that they can do hard things and get through them, that being uncomfortable and in pain doesn’t mean to stop but to keep moving forward, one step. Then another. And another.
I have seen too many people, young people in particular talk about how inconvenient it is to vote.

It reminded me of some tweets by historian Kevin Kruse who while doing research for a book on the civil rights movement, shared these short stories and pictures.

Read these and consider what Americans sacrificed to get full access to the ballot


Reverend George Lee in Belzoni, Mississippi, used his pulpit and his printing press to encourage African Americans to register to vote. For his troubles, he was assassinated by three men with shotguns in May 1955.





A few months later, Lamar Smith -- who had been busy trying to convince local blacks to vote -- was gunned down by three men on the lawn of the courthouse on a Saturday afternoon. A crowd watched it happen, but originally police could find no witnesses to it.




In 1961, voting rights activist Herbert Lee was murdered by a state legislator in front of a dozen witnesses. After a few years, one of the witnesses offered to testify about the murder. The night before he was going to testify, he was killed outside his home.





In Jackson, Mississippi, the family of the NAACP state field secretary, Medgar Evers, stayed up late to see what their father thought of the president's speech and all that had unfolded on June 11, 1963. 

Around midnight, Medgar Evers' children heard the familiar sound of their father's Oldsmobile pulling into the driveway. He got out of the car, picked up a stack of sweatshirts stenciled "JIM CROW MUST GO" and turned to enter his home.

Across the street, hidden among the honeysuckle vines, a white supremacist named Byron de la Beckwith squinted through the scope of a 30.06 Winchester rifle, squeezed the trigger, and ripped a bullet through the activist’s back.

At the crack of the gun, his kids inside threw themselves to the floor, precisely as their father, a veteran of the Normandy landing, had trained them. When no more shots came, they hurried outside to find their dad face down and bloodied in their driveway. In the early hours of June 12, 1963, Evers passed away. After the civil rights breakthroughs of the day before, in Tuscaloosa and Washington DC, and across the country, too, his assassination proved a powerful reminder of just how much further the nation still had to go.


In the summer of 1964, three voting rights activists -- James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner -- were detained by cops and then murdered by Klansmen in Philadelphia, Mississippi.













During the climactic voting rights protests in Selma, 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson was beaten and shot by Alabama state troopers in February 1965. He died soon after.













Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister from Boston, was beaten by white supremacists who attacked him and two other clergymen who had come to Selma to support voting rights. Reeb died two days later.












Four Klansmen murdered Viola Liuzzo, a mother of five from Detroit who had been giving rides to voting rights marchers after the Selma-to-Montgomery march. They chased her in their own car and shot her twice in the head.






In August 1965, Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopalian seminary student from Boston, was arrested along with a Catholic priest for supporting a voting rights campaign in Lowndes County, Alabama. Almost immediately after their release, Daniels was shot to death by a deputy.







In January 1966, Vernon Dahmer, a well-off grocery store owner, announced on the radio in Hattiesburg that he would pay poll taxes for anyone who wanted to vote but couldn't afford it. The

Klan attacked his home that night.

The Klansmen threw jugs of gasoline into his home and set it on fire. As the fire spread, Dahmer fired his gun to scare the Klansmen off and got his wife and kids out of the house. He finally made it out, but soon died from the severe burns and smoke inhalation.

"I've been active in trying to get people to register to vote," Dahmer told a reporter. "People who don't vote are deadbeats on the state. I figure a man needs to do his own thinking. What happened to us last night can happen to anyone, white or black."




These stories are from one short period of just United State history, this leaves out the entire story of the women who fought and struggled to gain the vote or the wars we fought to gain our ability and others the ability to vote.


But, sure, I hear you.

Voting can be a real hassle.

Why bother.