An Entrepreneurial Tipping Point

Update: Here’s part 2 (the ‘secular’ part): “Lessons Learned as an Educational Consultant (Oct 2013)”

I’ve been wanting to write this post for months, but I haven’t felt I was ready. I’ve decided to write this in two parts, and am writing here first… because it is impossible for me to write about this without discussing my faith in God, and I don’t want to partially write about this in the constrained way I’d feel I needed to if I only posted to my primary professional blog. That’s one of the main reasons I setup “Eyes Right,” so I would have a space to share about my faith and not feel I needed to “self-censor” because people were coming to my site for educational technology tips or other non-religious reasons. I’m not sure why you’ve come to this post… but hopefully you’ll find something which is not only practically helpful, but also points you toward God and gives you encouragement in your own journey of faith.

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In February of 2009, I become a full-time digital learning consultant. It was a big leap of faith. In the ensuing 4 1/2 years, I’ve learned a great deal, but I still don’t feel like “I’ve arrived” or “I’ve figured this out.” That’s the main reason I’ve delayed writing this post… I still feel like I have SO many things to figure out, and perhaps (with more time) I’ll figure out more of them and THEN write this post. Yet, time marches on, and things continue to both change and evolve. There are many, many more lessons to still learn, but perhaps now is a good time to share a few that I’ve learned up to this point.

In the past few weeks, I’ve reached “an entrepreneurial tipping point” as a full-time digital learning consultant. I believe God is calling me to stop doing my consulting work full-time, and instead take a full-time teaching position and only consult a bit on the side. It has been my dream for years to be a full-time educational consultant, and this has been what I’ve done now for almost five years… but there are a lot of caveats to that history and it’s been FAR from the glamorous job it might appear to be to outside observers. The ONLY way our family has survived financially and otherwise the past 4.5 years is thanks to the grace of God: as manifested in the generosity as well as support of our parents, our church family, and my professional work for an ongoing educational nonprofit. This isn’t something which God revealed to me through a burning bush or another dramatic encounter… it’s actually something which has become apparent because of financial difficulties. Since I started as an educational consultant, I’ve frequently wondered what my “Now I’ve got to STOP doing this” point would be. It’s not something I’d defined. I never even created a formal “business plan” for the LLC I started, and I’m sure that would have been a good idea. We’ve lived ridiculously close to “the financial edge” of having absolutely no money… exhausted savings, almost no available credit. I’m embarrassed to admit this, and I question the degree to which I should be publicly transparent about it. I know there are many, many people who live “month to month” with “regular” jobs, not trying to make it as entrepreneurs, but I don’t take solace in that. It’s not the responsible way to live, and whether it’s something lots of people do or not it’s not right. Still, I’ve known that persistence and faith in the path forward have been important, and I’ve believed that God would eventually financially bless my efforts if I persisted in always striving to follow His will for my life, and following the path in life I believe He is calling me to travel.

So, to try and avoid a rambling post (which would be VERY easy to write on this topic) I’m going to organize my thoughts into several “lessons learned” which have a specifically Christian and religious focus. I’m next going to write a secular version of this which addresses things which aren’t particularly faith-based. I’m not doing this to hide any of these ideas, or to hide my faith… which I strongly feel is important to share with others. It’s because the people who read my primary educational blog aren’t coming there to read about my faith journey… and there are aspects of this which can only be shared in the context of faith and my walk with God. Here we go. Many of these things aren’t “lessons learned” or “advice” that is just applicable to someone who is pursuing or wants to pursue a career as an educational consultant. Lots of this can apply to anyone.

1. Seek a Spiritual Mentor

One of the best things I FINALLY did in the last year was find a spiritual mentor who I meet with on a monthly basis. Mine is Curt Gruel, who is the leader of a “Heartpaths” group here in the Oklahoma City area. They have a multi-year training program in which they learn how to become spiritual advisors to other Christians, helping them grow in their journey of faith and both recognize and understand the call of God’s Holy Spirit in their lives. My wife has been in this “Spiritual Directions” program though our church for the last seven years, and it’s been transformational for her. It has been for me too. It’s not quite accurate to call this a “program” of our church, because it’s not something that is very visible to others. I don’t know if it’s listed as an official ministry, and it’s not something you’ll find in our bulletin on Sundays. Still, it’s definitely something members of our church are intimately involved with, and it’s an ecumenical ministry involving multiple churches.

The reason spiritual mentorship is gigantic goes back to Biblical stories and models like Paul and Timothy. We’re all called to have mentors in our spiritual life, and to also serve “mentee’s” too. Meeting regularly with someone to explore where God is moving and acting in your life is a powerful experience. It helps focus not only your attention, but also sensitize your spirit to God’s Spirit. God is moving around us all the time, but so often we’re too “blinded by our busyness” to see Him and his work. These verses from John, as Jesus talked to Nicodemus about how God’s Spirit is like the wind, are a case in point. We can see and experience the effects of God’s Spirit every day, but we have to be attuned to Him to see Him. That process (which thankfully continues) has been HUGE for me to better recognize and understand God’s Holy Spirit in my own life.

2. Spend Daily Time in God’s Word

The last two years I’ve read through the entire Bible with the assistance of daily reading plans included as part of the YouVersion iPhone Bible app. (free) The first year I actually got behind and didn’t complete the last few books, but I was close. The second year I stayed on track better and finished the entire Bible. This year I haven’t done a daily reading plan, but I try to read the Bible most days. Reading God’s Word daily is essential. There are SO many competing sources of information angling for our attention each minute of every day. Planting God’s Word into my mind intentionally every day has been a HUGE part of my walk with Him, and is a giant part of the reason now I feel very confident about how he’s directing me professionally to change course.

3. Seek Balance in All Things

Especially for the past year, I’ve been working hard to strike a better balance in my life in multiple arenas, including spiritual development. I want to live my life in balance when it comes to my work, sleep, family time, prayer, Bible study, other kinds of reading, play, and exercise. This is really tough. I tend to be a person who works too much. Since most of my work is done on a computer, and I have access to laptops, I can work anywhere and at anytime. There is so much work to be done, it would be easy to be overwhelmed. I have not given some things in my life, like exercise, play, free reading, and (at times) sleep, the time and attention they both need and deserve. It’s vital to MAKE time, not find time, for spiritual growth and development. For me, this happens both through scheduled meetings with groups like my Friday morning men’s group as well as individual time to read the Bible, pray, and be quiet as I listen to God. I’m not still and quiet, as a listener, nearly enough… all of these things are hard and difficult for me. Yet I am convinced this is an important part of the call God has placed upon my life at this time, to not only take care of myself but also set a good example for my children and my wife. Balance is hard but thankfully I have multiple people in my life who are helping me stay accountable to these goals.

4. Have Humility to Ask and Accept Help

One of the absolutely worst, toughest, and HARDEST parts of trying to be an independent learning consultant over the past 4.5 years has been the times when we ran out of money and had to ask for help. Thankfully this hasn’t happened lots of times, but it has happened several times, and it’s excruciatingly difficult to ask family members for help. I absolutely didn’t want to do it any of the times we did, and when we did I never wanted to do it again. When this has happened, it has always been at times we were “waiting for checks” which were going to come in, but were late. Having to ask your family for financial help is a very humbling thing, and I don’t recommend it to anyone. I would say, however, that God can and does bless us through others including our family, and at times this can include financial help. So it’s important to have the humility as well as courage at times to ask for assistance, as well as ACCEPT assistance when it is offered. These experiences have taught both my wife and I that we want to maintain very open and transparent communication with all of our children as they grow older, so hopefully we can be in a position to help them when and if our financial assistance is needed. In this way our families have “paid it forward.” There is absolutely no way we could have made it without the support of our families, and our church family, over the past few years. Praise God for His blessings and his grace which he demonstrates and shares generously through those who are called according to His purposes.

5. Submit all major financial decisions to the Lord TOGETHER

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s vital to never make large financial decisions alone. It’s now our rule as a couple to always make large financial decisions together. Maybe this seems obvious to everyone else, but it wasn’t something I was using as a “personal operating procedure” early in our marriage. When you submit an idea, opportunity, or prospective purchase to the Lord together, there are important dynamics that kick in which can help avoid bad decisions. I’ve made bad decisions in the past, but my decisions have always been better (and better informed by God, I think) when I’ve discussed them with my wife, committed them to prayer, and then submitted them to God together.

6. Don’t Expect Things to Be Easy

I’ve been waiting for YEARS for things to financially “smooth out” and get easy for us, as I pursued what I believed to be God’s will for my life as an educational consultant. It never happened. Maybe it never will, but I actually think that God does not and will not call us to live in a constant state of financial uncertainly and stress. My advice for those who are considering full-time educational consulting work is to NEVER expect things to be easy. It certainly hasn’t been for me or for our family, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t doing the things God had called us to do. I’ve never read in the Bible a passage where God said, “And when you choose to follow me, all your paths will be straight and I’ll always fill your bank account with more money than you need or can spend.” I’d love that to be true in many ways, but it’s simply not reality or God’s promise for our lives. I think there is a fine line to tread between being persistent and stubborn in our desire to follow our “dreams” and work toward the goals we want to achieve, and the need to be attuned to God’s Holy Spirit who can and may say at some point, “You need to go a different direction” or at least “Change tack by shifting your course over here.”

Those are a few of the lessons learned and ideas I’d like to share which tie directly to my journey of faith, regarding my career and professional work. Now I’m going to write a post over on my main blog, which will address the more “secular” lessons learned and bits of advice I can share.

If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear any feedback you have or ideas to share. May God bless you richly in your own journey of faith to know Him and to serve Him!

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