A Tale Of Two Cities

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More years ago than I care to admit, my sister started off her valedictory speech with a quote from Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. She of course was using it to refer to the many experiences the class had in its four years of high school, and would now face in life going forward. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. — A Tale of Two Cities

While the title would lead you to think this was a novel about two cities, it was really about two different men. It is that twist that makes this selection of a title for my blog post apropos. In my own version of the twist, I’m going to be talking about two types of people. And the study will also be one of contrasts.

“It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” which was it? I’m going to submit it is both. From 2:00pm to 9:00pm Cafe Crop had a booth set up at the Lake County Fair. We asked people who stopped by to take a few minutes to write a note to a member of our armed forces expressing their thanks, support, and encouragement. These are specifically for men and women who are not getting notes from home when others are. The age of wisdom folks realized what they had to be thankful for, and took the few minutes to write out a card. The age of foolishness folks would hardly look in our direction, and those that did say something said things like, “I don’t have time.”

As I witnessed this behavior throughout the evening, I found myself thinking that the very freedom these people have to experience the fun they are having at the fair is made possible by these men and women serving in places where they want us dead. Yet they can’t spare a few minutes to pause and say thank you? I was having my own “epoch of incredulity.” The only thing that saved the day for my “epoch of belief” were the many people who did stop, pause, and write out a note.

There are plenty of well meaning people who wonder why our troops need to be deployed around the globe, and near so many hotspots. They’ve been removed from Iraq, and soon Afghanistan, and we may be pleased. Yet the removal of our troops has resulted in brutal and powerful forces taking over what we left for the Iraqi military to defend their country. Instead, ISIS has taken over, and they are killing Christians. Perhaps you don’t care about that, and perhaps you think the United States should not care.

Perhaps your excuse is that you don’t like the current Commander-in-Chief. He’s spending more time golfing than being a leader. Fine, but what does that have to do with the men or women who are in harms way? Why take your annoyance out on them? Aren’t they still our heroes?

More importantly, if we are not willing to stand for good as a nation, then as the saying goes,

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmond Burke

Then as now,

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – George Santayana

To continue with the thoughts of Dickens, I’d rather not consider this in the realm of “the superlative degree of comparison only.” Rather, I’d like to learn from historical events, and instead of repeating them be a force for good in the world. Practically speaking peace is not achieved by appeasement at any level. From the schoolyard bully to rogue terrorists, you don’t achieve peace by giving them what they want. That just escalates their cruelty and emboldens them. Instead, bullies and terrorists need to be put in their place. Seriously, do we think we are punishing the bully by suspending them from school for a day or a week? Are we that stupid as to think that is an effective punishment? If we don’t stand up to the terrorists in Iraq, how long do you think it will be before they figure out how to attack us here at home?

And to come full circle with what touched off writing this piece. If we cannot find the time to encourage our service men and women now, what will happen when the fight comes closer to home? Oh, wait. It has. Our streets and homes are full of violence. Those that are willing to “serve and protect” are being gunned down in our cities. And we continue to blame government, and anyone and everyone else. The reality is that we are the “Tale of Two Cities”, we are facing the “winter of despair” and it is of our own making. The “spring of hope” seems to be impossible to attain once again.

The reason we’re having a hard time getting to hope again is because we’ve forgotten where it comes from. The ancient king of Israel had this problem too. He asked this question:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?

What was David’s answer, and what is ours?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

I wrote my note this afternoon to someone who was willing to serve. I thanked them for their sacrifice. I’m thankful they were willing to make that sacrifice for so many ungrateful people. Come to think of it, I’m thankful that God was willing to sacrifice his Son, Jesus Christ for me because I was ungrateful at one point about that too. I pray that we are on God’s side in battle. I pray for God’s protection of our troops, wherever they may be. And I pray that those who lead our troops would allow their decisions to be formed by Almighty God.

But that’s not enough. I pray that I would put my hope in God, and that my fellow Americans would do the same. Then perhaps we can begin to restore hope in our homes, in our streets, and in our towns and cities. With God’s help we can once again be that shining city on a hill. Without it we’re a crumbling city on a hill. Or to paraphrase Dickens, “we were a shining city on a hill, we were a crumbling city on a hill.” What is your choice?

Things That Are Not As They Appear

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Some would say that traditional biblical marriage has been defeated in Indiana by the ruling of a court. I do not share that opinion. Now before you think I agree with the ruling, and I’ve abandoned what God thinks about this subject, let me remind you of the title of this post! It really doesn’t matter what I think, or what a court does at the end of the day. Neither one of us can add an inch to my height, or prolong my days beyond the number ordained by God. By the same token, neither can my life be shortened unless God also allows.

This has me wondering. Why is it that so many people who call themselves Christians are so afraid to lovingly speak the truth? Why is it that we seem to fear what men will think of us instead of warning people about the dangers of defying God? Why do we live our lives as if the way things appear are the way they actually are? Are we really that uncertain of what the future holds? Do we really not trust God as much as we say we do?

You see this concept rearing its ugly head in the business world as well with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against Aereo, the startup company that had a novel idea. Locate small antennas close to the broadcast towers, and allow customers to tune in remotely via the Internet to these antenna. The Networks felt that this was a violation of their copyright, and sued to stop this. They won. Or did they? I’m one of many customers who will not see their programs, and therefore will not see their advertiser’s commercials. It only appears that the American Broadcast Company (ABC) et al, won. The reality is that everyone lost. Innovation lost, the broadcasters lost, and the consumer lost. What’s more, legal clarity lost, as the dissenting Justices explained.

That greatly disrupts settled jurisprudence which, before today, applied the straightforward,bright-line test of volitional conduct directed at the copyrighted work. –

573 U. S. ____ (2014)

It is time for thoughtful people to see past what things appear to be, to what they really are. If we don’t, we may find our ability to speak, or take a stand will no longer be ours to enjoy. Are you ready to make a difference?

 

Always Learning Lessons

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At the beginning of lawn mowing season, I was not looking forward to doing that job myself. Oh, I needed the exercise, and that part is good for me. What I wasn’t looking forward to was the time it would take coupled with what it would do with my allergies. I’ve been fine on the allergy front so far, and I’ve gotten to the point where I actually look forward to the hour that it takes me to mow our lawn. I’ve used it to listen to podcasts which I’ve recently discovered.

Yesterday while mowing the lawn, I listened to one of Michael Hyatt’s early podcasts. The gist of what he was talking about is a concept I was very much familiar with. That concept is under promise and over deliver. What jumped out at me as I was walking in monotonous rows back and forth in my yard was his take on letting people know about your goals. I immediately thought of telling all of you what my intentions were for May, and what I intended to do in June. He used Apple as an example. Sure there are leaks about upcoming products, but for the most part, you don’t find out what the product, or software is until they announce it to the public, and then it is usually available that day. Michael said that it is fine to share goals with key people to keep you accountable, but sharing the goal with the world can have two unwanted outcomes. The first being that you fall short of the goal, and the second is that you are not as driven to complete the goal, or it becomes too monumental.

Both of these outcomes are not desirable because the result is the same. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, and if your heart is sick, you might say your heart isn’t in it.

That’s exactly what happened to me. In May, we had a major glitch in our server infrastructure that hosts this site. That wouldn’t be a distraction if we were not responsible for hosting the site, as well as the sites of several clients. Instead our focus shifted from creativity to problem solving. We don’t like to just fix a problem without making it less likely that the problem will reoccur, so that meant our focus was now on understanding the cause of the problem and eliminating that.

As if that wasn’t enough, the company where we host our server had infrastructure problems of their own in June. A major switch upgrade didn’t go as planned. So we continue to step up our efforts at finding a long term solution. We have that, and now we are working on a transition of our own.

However, in light of this post, we’re not going to get into more details until after this is all done. We’re going to take a page out of Apple’s book, and make the announcements once everything is in place.

Look for more information coming soon!

Typical Small Business Finance

Most people could be forgiven for thinking that small businesses can just go to a bank with an idea, and the bank will loan them money. There’s more to the story. Most, if not all banks today look at the creditworthiness of the small business owner, and in essence the small business owner is on the hook for the loan personally. At first blush this seems like a good idea, you want the people who are running the business to be responsible. If this was the only problem with small business lending, it would be bad enough.small-business-financeThere is a much bigger problem. Once a small business owner derives all of their income from the small business, their personal guarantee is only as good as the small business, but banks typically don’t look at the health or viability of the business in assessing the risk of loaning a business money. In addition, banks typically are looking for two years of business operations, so that precludes startups from obtaining a loan.

So, where do small businesses startups go for initial funding? First, founder’s funds. Followed frequently by friends and family. It is a shallow pool of resources, and it helps to explain why so many small businesses fail. Oh, sure, there are many other reasons businesses fail, but if all the other factors are sound, the lack of access to the tools of capital formation will keep a viable business from growing, and without growth, businesses eventually die–just like a plant that stops growing will eventually die.

In upcoming posts we will examine in more detail the options that are currently available. Given that the byline for my blog is Changing the World of Small Business Finance, you would be correct in concluding I’m going somewhere with all of this. I’m hoping you’ll join me in this journey, and that together, we’ll make a huge difference for a growing number of small businesses that join our family.

Spring Cleaning

This NASA picture is clearly extremely clean. You wouldn’t want to spend so much money and time, only to have a small contaminate cause the mission to fail. Perhaps this example is overkill, and your spring cleaning is not nearly this intense. My spring cleaning is this intense. I’m turning a corner, I’m changing direction. And May 1st marks the first day of that new direction.Phoenix Mars Lander inverted in backshell in cleanroom (PIA07246)

I’m going to use the month of May to ramp up to blog posts occurring three days a week. There is one topic. Changing the World of Small Business Finance. You have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard that Small Business is what drives our economy. And a major reason that our economy continues to struggle, is that nobody seems to be addressing the issue of how Small Businesses are financed.

For the most part Small Business finance consists of owner investment and debt. Individual investment in Small Business is so regulated and restricted, that it is primarily the most successful (or the most connected) that stand a chance of gaining access to the capital markets.

What is coming is a discussion of how to effectively use mechanisms that are already in place in new ways to achieve the same results for smaller businesses that large business has enjoyed for some time.

I used to think that the numbers behind our operations would expose our strengths and weaknesses to our business partners and our competitors. Thinking that way plays into the complexity that large companies deal with in the equity markets. There are so many moving parts, that it is practically impossible for even the most seasoned reader and financial analyst to truly understand what is going on in a well run company, let alone a company that is trying to hide things from investors.

If you can’t buy a piece of equity in my business, what can you buy? And, what do you get in the event that you do decide to buy? Those are good questions, and I’ll answer them next time. Between now, and the next time I write, expect to see a way for you to donate to the cause.

Why should you consider a donation? That’s an easy one. My wife and I have invested everything we have into small businesses. If this idea sees the light of day, it will be nothing short of a God thing. The last time I checked, He’s the only one who has any business making guarantees. The bottom line here is that I am working at building an online platform to support local small businesses, including one of our own.

I’m looking forward to this journey. I have no idea where it is going to end up. All I know for certain is that we’re bound to get lots of things wrong. If you are looking for perfection out of the gate, then this journey is not for you. But if you are ready to see what kind of difference we can make by working together, and you want to read the inside story, then when I’m ready, I’ll be looking for you to join me. Are you ready?

More About The Coming Changes

We wouldn't have butterflies without change.

We wouldn’t have butterflies without change.

If you saw how many pithy comments about change I typed and then deleted, you might be impressed. Then again, we’ve all heard so many of them over the years, that I wonder if the original truth behind them has gotten lost. I realized as I typed each one that I had already strayed from the purpose of writing this blog post. You might even say what I have typed thus far has also missed the mark. But all of this makes an important point. We tend to resist the changes we know we need to make. Here’s my list. How many of them do you share? And what would you add? I look forward to your comments.

  • Maintain a consistent devotional time
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Loose weight
  • Get more exercise
  • Watch less TV
  • Spend more time with my family
  • Stop trying to solve every problem singlehandedly
  • Be intentional about:
    • E-mail
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Web based “research”
  • Dedicated time to:
    • Write blog posts
    • Create Podcasts to go along with blog posts for people who have more time to listen, than read a website
  • What are yours?

 

Change is Coming…

We’ve all heard the phrase, “April Showers bring May Flowers” and the application for my blog is that changes are coming! For many years, my blog was the place I went and got things off my chest. I published roughly two out of every three posts I wrote. I didn’t try to make money with my blog, and that would have been hard, given how sporadically I posted content.

That’s what’s changing. I have a plan, and I have help. Eventually, I may even have blog readers that are paying me to write my blog. Imagine that! As I sit here behind my monitor, with my fingers poised over my keyboard, and thoughts streaming though my head, and making the trip through nerves to the muscles in my fingers to type (a process which is amazing in its own right) I find it hard to believe that one day that could be a reality. Yet at the same time, if you told me when I was in elementary school, what my life would be like today, I would have thought you were crazy. A blog wasn’t even on the radar back then. In fact, radar was still a new technology then, now your new car is likely to have it.

I’m looking forward to the changes, and I’ll be writing some more about the coming changes soon.