Monthly Archives: October 2011

Re-Creating Home-Building

Anybody here wish they could reduce their energy bill? Yeah, me too.

Well, there’s a motley crew in Austin, TX doing their best to build a business based on three pillars – People, Place, and Profit.

I hereby introduce to you Treehouse!

Tree House

Your first question, like Kevin Benz of Austin, TX magazine Culture Map is probably “Sure, if your budget is unlimited, and you don’t mind everything coming in beige, right?” Read his story for a good bio of the company and summary of their product offering.

So what does it mean that a company values People, Place, and Profit? Do they teach on that at Harvard School of Business?

We’re hoping that the world is waking up to the need to have other values in business besides profit. Unfortunately it will probably take us a long time to recover from this, because it started with the enlightenment ideal of dualism: that we are a person made of two separate, but temporarily joined parts. Mind is separate from body. From here, industrialism separated business from place. Eventually CEOs who flew in for work and back to their family on the weekend separated family from work, and also profit from community. A job truly became the equivalent of a “bank heist,” aka job. (Some new friends of mine have an acronym for JOB – Just Over Broke.)

Enough history, but you get the point. A company that values People, Place and Profit as equal pillars of their business is an oddity in the Corporate West, which is quickly becoming the Corporate Globe. Unfortunately most Western ideals of business which celebrate schisms are being adopted by the developing world. Doubt this? See page 15, the first full paragraph of this recent issue of Scribner’s Magazine I downloaded through GoogleBooks if you find that hard to believe.

I find comfort in the fact that the author says there is still a class of disenchanted Easterners who hold to their traditional values hidden underneath the veneer of Westernism. Of course, it is this sort of dichotomy that leads to terrorism in some instances. But, if properly used it can lead to the development of businesses that honor People, Place and Profit equally as well as TreeHouse, albeit on a smaller scale. I think of my favorite eatery in Harrisonburg, VA – El Charro. They pay their employees well enough for them to travel on a regular basis back to their country of origin, where they have family, friends, and rootedness. And they also play futbol together, go to worship together, etc. Work is more than a “job” for my friends there.

And at TreeHouse they are making great strides to institutionalize a sense of “wholeness” in the home-building / DIY industry. Their value products are comparably priced to their counterparts in other Big Box stores of their type. Read the above article for examples; their paint sounds spectacular. So, they’ve got the place and profit part down. They’ve figured out a model that I hope bears out to be competitive w/the Orange guys and the Blue guys. We’ll see. But if you can do more efficient AC systems, recycled cotton jean insulation which does not require a ventilator to install, and clay wall finishing that actually cleans the air in your house for a cost competitive w/the big guys, I say you’ve got people and profit figured out.

A definition of terms seems apropo. People – those who work for you and whom you find yourself surrounded by in your community. Place – The earth you live on, and the institutions around you that make life what it is. Profit – Moola, cash, dinero – more assets building to your cash flow and towards your ability to stay in business than your liabilities subtract. You can also look at this as a Triple Bottom Line – success being measured by performance on all three with a baseline measure in place for all three. I first heard of this Triple Bottom Line from my dear friend and mentor Steven Garber. You can read more about it – Mike D – here. ūüôā

So here’s hoping TreeHouse can make the three P’s work for Austin, it’s employees, and the earth they inhabit. I’ll be watching closely. Hoping I can buy a franchisee option when I make my millions, because I love the idea of this store, and I hope to visit it soon.

Let’s seriously consider how our economy and our cultural products – ie: a hardware store – align with or stray from the way this earth and we were created to flourish. I think TreeHouse is on to something.

Hope you’ve enjoyed. Cheers.


Re-Creating Cancer

Touchy subject, but well worth our consideration…

Often-times we look at the good raw materials that God has given us to cultivate, but not so often do we look at the broken raw materials of our experience on earth that might be re-purposed in a manner consistent with our design as cultivators.

So, here goes nothin!

This past week my dear friend Greg passed on from this experience of life to the next, greater one.  And boy did he take his cancer and make something great of it!

We’ll return to Greg’s journey in a minute, but consider for a few moments our culture’s musings about cancer. Take, for example the recent filmic journey created by Jonathan Levine, 50/50.

‘You can’t change your situation. The only thing you can change is how you choose to deal with it.’

Truer words have never been spoken regarding cancer… or life, for that matter. Every day we are faced with the challenges of life in a world that is not the way it ought to be. ¬†Each of us groans about this in our own way. ¬†Yet at the end of our groaning, we all have a choice. ¬†Will we lay down and die a thousand deaths until our bodies go down to the grave, or will we chose to re-make our situation with the raw materials we’ve been given? ¬†Because Will Reiser’s script asks this question so poignantly it was rewarded by an audience rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes – a popular film review website. ¬†I can think of only one film that has bested it, the Dark Knight.

So, how does this relate to Greg? ¬†Well, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character and Greg’s could not have suffered through the final stages of life more differently. ¬†While I am grateful for the portrayal we get on screen from these often funny, and eerily sober and heartwarming actors, I think Greg’s re-creation is a more powerful one than that experienced by Reiser and portrayed by his team.

I welcome you to read Greg’s blog on his experience battling back and finally making peace with his disease. ¬†In one of his posts towards the beginning of the next chapter, which is how he sees his death, he wrote these words, “It seems that I cannot even hear the words I wrote in my previous post. Saturday started off just fine. A morning clap of thunder gave way to one of those nice easy late summer morning storms with good rain. Then sunshine. Somewhere into the afternoon, though, I began to feel it. The shadows were forming and spreading doubt, fear, some anxiety, even depression, slowly over the remainder of the day. Just when I should revel in the comfort of God my father, I too easily gave way to the encroaching darkness, and soon, what had been so uplifting for me a day ago, though still profoundly meaningful, and right, now seemed so distant, foreign. The concepts God taught me, against the onslaught of the afternoon, I chose to turn from, not run to.

Would that God would be pleased to give me a softened heart, receptive ears, clear eyes that are turned and tuned to his perfect will and provision for me. I also pray for more grace and wisdom for Cynth as she helps me in this particular struggle.”

Rather than railing against God Greg somehow managed to recognize that his doubt was not the state that man’s mind was meant to take on. ¬†Rather, he knew that we men are supposed to hope, particularly in the goodness of the God who created us. ¬†In this sense his struggle was very different from Will Reiser’s. ¬†I am glad that Rogen, Reiser, and friends have found some semblance of peace since Will’s struggle, which inspired the film and grateful for their passion in bringing it to the public eye. However, I find more life-giving strength from Greg’s example.

Thank God for men and women who are willing to share their stories so that those of us who have never experienced these things can learn how to see life before we get there. ¬†This new way of “seeing” doesn’t mean the blow will be any less when we get there, but it might mean that we will be better prepared to offer hope for those who follow after us.

What a great legacy you have left your family, church, myself, and the world, Greg.  I thank you for opening your home and your friends to me, and I look forward to seeing you someday soon. What a short time we get here. I look forward to hours sitting and listening to your story there. And hopefully those of Reiser, Levitt, Rogen and many others. May they see the world as Greg saw it.



Re-Creating Demigods

With all the press humming over what life will be like after Steve Jobs, have you caught yourself wondering something like this? “Man, Steve Jobs was a god among men. No way Apple recovers from this.”

I’ve had many friends ask me to postulate on the future of Apple minus Steve Jobs, and I’ve got to say, I think they’ll do just fine.

People have given Jobs a god-like status. And I’m not speaking ill of the man, just the people who think he deserves praise and admiration that would more appropriately be expressed to God in these individuals respective communities of Faith.

Any of you heard of Simon Sinek? If you follow the business world at all, or have been around TED talks, you will have. He wrote this piece titled The Night the Lighthouse Went Out. ¬†He says, “There are many great CEOs and there are great innovators, but we won’t miss them the same way we’ll miss Jobs.” ¬†I can think of one actually, that I will miss more than Jobs: Foster Friess. No, make it two: Bill Gates. No, three: Oprah Winfrey. ¬†All of these people made great innovations in business, culture, AND invested in other people’s lives.

Jobs may have cared about how people “touched” his Ipod, but he doesn’t seem to have cared much about actually touching real people. ¬†I mean, when you got a “handshake” opportunity with Jobs, it was literally that, a handshake, and nothing more. ¬†No, “Hi, nice to meet you Kyle.” ¬†Even George Bush, the president of the United States, would give you that. ¬†His time was not too precious to speak to a person he just met for a minute.

Now, before you think I’m bashing Steve Jobs, I am not. ¬†I am simply making an observation that the world is singing his praises, but they may not know him the way they think they do. And it would be far better to honor his memory by moving on and living a successful life in the vein of Bush, Cosby, Gates, Winfrey, or even your mom or dad than to sit around and mope about the fact that the Iphone5 announcement was actually an Iphone 4Gs announcement.

I can guarantee you that you never gained more from spending time with Job’s Ipod than you did by spending time with your grandmother or grandfather.

So I make this commitment to you today. ¬†I will be a man among boys… not a god among men. ¬†I will attempt to live my life like Foster, Craig (my dad), Mary (my mom), and many others who did actually “touch” people with their lives. ¬†And I think this will honor Steve Jobs more than buying his next expensive toy/tool/computational device.

Let’s honor Jobs by living excellent lives, not by paying lip service to someone who gave us excellent products, but couldn’t seem to care less about making investments in human lives.

For goodness sakes, he didn’t even invest in the lives of his employees, or C-level execs. ¬†That’s why everyone’s wondering if Apple will fail. ¬†And Apple’s attempt at corporate responsibility by forming a non-profit fell flat. ¬†Wonder why…

I’m done ranting, but I hope you’ve found the heart of my thesis helpful: Stop giving praise to someone who doesn’t care about you, and start living for those who do. ¬†You will be much happier than Steve Jobs ever did, and you will leave a more powerful legacy than even Steve could imagine.

God bless you. Kyle.

Re-Claiming Adulthood

No re-creation here, because there’s ‘nothing new under the sun’.

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Just a brief post in light of Tripp’s response last week.

I’m reminded of David Brooks’ piece on what it means to become an adult – ie – laying down our ‘options’ as adult men and women for what he refers to as ‘sacred commitments.’ He says that these commitments are what make a successful adult.

Please read, and reply if so inclined. I leave you this week with an encouragement to take the best of what Jason Derulo has to offer in terms of seeing part of the world and the darkness of it more clearly than some of us may, and what David Brooks has to offer in terms of ‘tearing a corner’ – to quote Bono – off of that darkness in his column. In order to re-claim what it means to be an adult we need their help to see ourselves the way we are, and picture what we may become if we make those ‘sacred commitments.’

I for one am committing to a group of men that I met in college. We are working out the details of a monthly Skype call to be accountable to one another and open to one another’s encouragement and sharpening over our schedules and budgets, or at least mine. I want the words I say to be commitments, not platitudes of how I would like to live my life.

I want to be held to my word, and make those commitments count, and by God’s grace he will bring coaches and brothers into that fight for me who will help me do what he wants me to do.

God bless you all.