Life, Death And Living With Faith

My heart is heavy this week as I learned a close family member lost his battle with cancer at the age of 61.  Rather than mourn I am choosing to celebrate a life in the only way I know how, by pulling out lessons for the benefit of all of us.

Regardless of your personal views around organized religion, I am inviting you on a journey around faith and the joy of life.   I urge us to put down our swords of religion and embrace the notion of faith as it pertains to living a full life.

pastor_ken_hutchersonKen Hutcherson was a unique individual.  He was first an athlete, then a pastor, a boisterous presence and always a family man.  Our paths crossed at age 13 when my mother remarried and our family unit was “adopted” into my step father’s larger family, which includes more than 100 people during holiday gatherings.  “Hutch” had previously married one of my stepfather’s nieces, and our entry into the family now made us relatives.   Of course being a large, vocal african american, Hutch stood out in a family mostly of German heritage.  As a young and impressionable man I learned he was an ex-NFL player turned pastor and was immediately intrigued and instantly wanted to get to know this person.

Being around Hutch even for a short period of time one could feel he was full of joy.  He had a spark of life you don’t find in most people.  Some would say that was the Lord working through him, and although I believe that I say he chose to live with joy and energy.   He made the decision be positive, put a smile on his face and energetically face the day regardless of his religious beliefs.   Amazing to me, some people don’t choose this way of life and it’s to their detriment.  He did,  even during his long battle with cancer when probably the last thing he felt like doing was stand there and empathetically talk to someone.

Joy is a choice we must choose each day.  Sometimes it’s not the easy choice when things are going wrong in your life.  Sometimes we want to curl up under the covers and shout profanities at anyone who approaches us.   But part of good character is being able to channel joy from within and outwardly project it towards others, especially when it’s not a Sunday stroll in the park.

Hutch actively embraced people.  The moment you came in contact with him you felt his warmth and compassion.  Although outspoken and holding controversial stances on certain social views, he still loved all people.   His big smile and encouraging laugh made you instantly take to him.

As a young man this greatly impacted me, and even more so in my mid-twenties during the time I spent within the church he started many years ago.  I often noticed how he approached people in his congregation, hugged them, asked about their family, joked with them and left them better than he found them.  I silently committed to do the same thing as I grew up.  People are people, and deserve to be treated with respect.  They deserve to be approached by you, rather than you bashfully waiting for them to approach.   They deserve to be looked in the eye and communicated to with honesty and encouragement, since you never know it might have been the only encouragement they received that day.  I am no better than anyone else, no matter if I am leading a large organization or just a one-man shop, but also no one is better than me.  Hutch knew the secret of Leadership – love your people and they will love you back.  He also knew you say more to people nob-verbally then you ever do verbally.  I will never lose sight of those lessons.

If you knew Hutch you knew he was on a mission.  His mission was faith based and religious in nature, with his pastoral duties engulfing his life.  Believe whatever you believe, you couldn’t help but be jealous of Hutch in his deep commitment to his mission.  It guided his every decision and aided everyday discussions he had with people.   Germaine in his commitment was his steadfastness in the views he felt towards his mission, even if those views rattled cages and frustrated others.   Being steadfast in our views is something we don’t encounter much today.  Given the political mess our country finds itself in it’s not uncommon to observe someone holding two different (and opposing) views in two different social conversations.  Hutch’s strength in commitment is also something I will never forget.

To make the largest impact possible entrepreneurs need to find a mission worth pursuing.  This mission can be anything you want it to be, and quite frankly it needs to come from within rather than externally forced upon you so as to preserve its authenticity.  Once you find it – and trust me it takes time – you must protect it through everlasting commitment.  Commitment means you work when you don’t feel like it.  You keep going when doors are shut in your face and countless emails go un-responded.  Commitment also means you stand strong in your views even if it’s not popular or common.  Ironically, anything worthwhile will initially be opposed.  Just look at Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela… and even our own Hutch.

The common thread I see in all this is Faith.  Hutch lived with Faith.  No, he embodied it.  Not only was it Christian faith but I am now referring to general faith in a better tomorrow and a just world.  Faith transcends all else to help us see through the fog and trust something better is on the other side.  It is what allows us to build technologies, organizations, families, congregations (in Hutch’s case) and all other things because without faith in a better tomorrow there is no reason to continue living today.

This is what I take from Hutch’s life and his fatal battle with cancer.  He, in a way he probably had no idea his influence, taught me and others to have faith in ourselves, our creator, our society and our mission.

Watch this clip to gain a better understanding of the significance of Ken Hutcherson’s life.

5 Crazy But Life Changing Reflections

Life moves pretty fast….. sometimes it’s best to sit back and reflect on your priorities.

The unintended consequence of a startup can be acceleration of everything around you.  It happens so fast, in fact, you end up losing perspective on more important aspects of life.  It’s easy to get out of bed each day, focus on what’s in front of you, go to bed only to get back up the next day to do it all again.  If you are not careful you will find yourself sprinting and spinning in place, making no forward progress at all.

Problems arise when you lose perspective, focusing only on what’s in front of you, becoming all too consumed on accomplishing your immediate goals and not what lies on your life’s horizon.  Soon enough you will reach your “destination” without taking certain aspects of life into consideration – like family, health and the afterlife – leaving you empty and unfulfilled at the end of your journey.

Here are 5 areas I am currently reflecting on to help gain a perspective on life with hopes to figure out a way to better align with what I am doing right now.  (Pardon the existential tone, just one of those days I guess…)


Do I actually enjoy how I spend my days?

Though it’s quite elementary it might help to evaluate if you are actually enjoying where you go and how you spend each day once you get out of bed and leave your house.  Honestly take into account the fun factor, or lack thereof.  Do you feel like a kid?  Or a boring adult?  Do the hours pass with ease and are you fulfilled once the day is over?  Yes, we have to make a wage, earn a paycheck and support our family but we don’t have to dislike it.  We should be enjoying each passing day and the process within.

I quit my full time job a while ago because I didn’t enjoy working for someone else and simply earning dollars for the hours I worked.  I decided to start a company – knowing it was going to be tough – because I value exploration and journey more than maintaining a status quo.  I more value creation than maintenance.

But even now as a free entrepreneur I am not exactly living the charmed life and if I am really honest with myself I remain unfulfilled.  The eyes burn and the legs strain as I make the climb.  I am still searching for the right environment, right cause and right team to help me execute on a worthy mission.  Most important to me is reaching a time in my life where I am able to say “if this is the last day of my life I am extremely excited and happy to do exactly what I plan to do today.”

We’ll get there.

What do I want my grandchildren to say about me?

Gazing towards the horizon, I am pondering how my family and friends will think of me when I am gone.   I hope I am following through and planting the right seeds.  How about you?  How will your friends and family describe you to their friends and others?  What will they talk about and what type of person will they describe?  Will they be proud to be your grandchild?  How did you treat them and what types of memories do you want to leave with them?

I am not even married so I am not even sure why I am thinking about my grandchildren.  Maybe it’s better to understand this concept in terms of legacy.  I want to leave a positive legacy for my family to be proud of.  It’s safe to say I haven’t gotten very far on this one but it is never too early to ponder what it should involve.  I want to be known as someone who never gave up, regardless of how difficult things became.  I want to be known as someone who treated everyone fair and well, regardless of who they were or their circumstances.  I also want to influence change in the world and encourage others to do the same.

I want to be proud of the person my grandchildren hopefully talk about.

If I die today, what will I say to my creator about how I lived my life?

Heavy stuff to think about but just imagine this for a minute:  you die, you go onto to the afterlife and you approach someone (something) who is there to take account of your life.

Yep. Each. And. Every. Minute. Of. Your. Life.

They look at you and proceed to ask you questions about it.  Why did you say that word to that person?  Why didn’t you offer a hand to that  helpless woman?  I gave you millions of dollars to help others, why did you spend it all on your self?

Now imagine them showing you how they hoped you had lived your life.  All the possibilities and potentials of your life start flooding right in front of you, but you cannot speak.  Your face goes white with regret as you realize you squandered all your strengths and talents, not using them as they could have been used to help your fellow man.

I know… crazy stuff.

Who, if anyone in my life, can I share my deepest and darkest fears with?

Do you have a confidant?  Is there someone you can talk to who will understand and hold no judgement, no matter what you tell them?  I have noticed thoughts, feelings, and emotions building up within me at the same time I can’t find an outlet in sight.  It can be frustrating and claustrophobic to identify struggles and challenges within us but lack any outlet or confidant.

Our biggest fears are the only thing holding us back from reaching our greatest potential.  What if you were able to talk them out and allow someone to help you work through them sans any judgment or embarrassment?

I know I am starting to look for people and ways to come to grips with the fears I have in my life.  In fact, writing has become one of them.

If Superman were to look at the world today, what wrongs would he want to make right?

There’s way too much uncertainty and unrest in the world today.  I have to assume even Superman would be overwhelmed with all there is to fix in the world.  But it seems to me an interesting exercise to ponder what Superman would want to fix if he/she were actually real.

Billions of people around the world still don’t have clean drinking water and live on $1 a day.  There are millions of people in the U.S. who are searching for employment opportunities, maybe Superman could think of ways to solve both third world and first world employment problems.  In fact, right down the street in Silicon Valley there are people starving and homeless, yet young startup founders are asking investors to give them millions of dollars so they can build yet another way to share photos and send a short message to someone else – all requiring people own the latest expensive smartphones.

How about terrorism?  How could he create something to curb the urge and the need for people to inflict pain and suffering on others?  And what about the financial challenges every country seems to be under now?  Don’t you think he could get creative enough to help out?  I bet there’s a lot more for Superman to fix, right?

Your unique reflections on the above will indeed bring out the entrepreneur in you.  I guarantee it.

In The Midst Of It All, Sometimes You Gotta Stop. Chill. And Take In The World.

Life is going so fast I am finding myself doing things I normally don’t do.  I am starting to forget random things like the power cord to my laptop, keys to my car and other stuff that is actually very important at specific times.  I am normally not like this, but at this juncture – starting a company, raising money and talking with early customers – everything just seems to blur together.

It’s time to chill.

Those who know me best have come to understand I will never let a good sunset pass me by.  I feel it is so important to take the time to stop, chill and observe the natural beauty around us.

Today, we spend to much damn time with our head down staring at a screen, searching for the next tweet of information to consume.  Don’t forget there is a beautiful world out there, waiting for you to appreciate.  Above is an image of the sunset from Monday, the end of a great day in Seattle.  When I noticed it was going to be a picture perfect evening I left the office a bit early, grabbed a few cold ones and went down to the beach to chill, think and take it all in.

Life comes at you pretty fast and beautiful scenery like this doesn’t happen very often so we must enjoy when we can.

Your Life Happens In Seconds (Video)

We live our life as a collection of seconds.  Why should it take any longer to make a purchase or connect with brands we care about?

At Seconds, we built a system to drive secure payments through text messages, allowing someone to quickly make a instant and automatic transaction by simply texting a keyword to a merchant.  Amazingly, it only take a second to send a text message.

Think about it, a merchant can now ping your mobile phone with a message informing you to complete the transaction by simply responding with a specific prompt. How would they know to do that? Your phone number can now become your payment credential, and since they can instantly reach you via short message from pretty much anywhere in the world, payments have no limitations.

Imagine how things will change when we all can interact and transact with any brand in the world in Seconds?

How Seconds Will Give 2,433 Hours Back To Your Life

2,433 hours

The amount of time wasted in an 80 year lifespan just waiting to interact with businesses doing things like:

  • pressing 1 for the employee directory, pressing 2 for account information…
  • waiting on hold on the phone
  • Waiting in line to purchase something
  • calling to ask a question
  • writing a check (who does that anymore?)

How did I get to 2,433 hours wasted in a lifetime?  On average, we can estimate approximately 1 minute is wasted each time we interact with a businesses.

Multiply that by roughly 5 each day.

Multiply that by 365 days each year.

Multiply that by 80 years in a lifetime.

Total all that up and you get 2,433 hours.  This could be an underestimation if one minute turns out to be more like 5 or 10 minutes but I think you get the picture.

How can Seconds save you those hours so you can get back to living your life?

Seconds enables customers quick interaction and transaction with merchants through the mobile web. Our mission is to make the consumer experience more efficient and enjoyable.   When a consumer attaches their payment credentials to their Seconds account, they have effectively transformed their phone into a transactional device.  With Seconds, people can send quick messages and easily make transactions with merchants – which takes seconds, not minutes.  No more waiting on hold.  No more of the “press 1 for operator” crap that no one likes.  No more waiting in a line of ten people to simply swipe your card to pay for something.

If you have a question for a merchant, you simply send a message and then get back to your life.  Within a matter of seconds you should receive a response.  It’s just like how you interact now with your friends and family, shooting them a quick text during a commercial break or in between glances on the road (kidding…. kinda).  Interesting enough merchants actually want you to do this as well since they just want the phone to stop ringing.

Mobile payments work the same way.  Seconds allows merchants to program their account and customize keywords with specific dollar amounts which act as triggers to charge a Seconds user’s mobile payment account.  If you want to purchase something you can text the keyword and immediately pay for whatever you were buying.  Or if you don’t know the keyword the merchant can send you a conformation text and charge your Seconds account for you.  Simple as that!

Even more cool, because Seconds is driven through text messaging, if a person is holding an iPhone 4S they can use Siri to complete the mobile transactions by simply saying the keyword.

Maybe you have noticed our world speeding up and getting faster and faster each day, I know I have.  It just seems like there is so much to do and so little time to accomplish all my daily tasks.  I have no time to waste, and yet I find myself along with others standing in line at the grocery store checking my email or twitter stream.  I do this because I don’t like to be idle and feel like I am missing something.  Whether we agree with using mobile devices at places such as the grocery store, I think we all agree there are many things in our life that need to be made more efficient with technology.  Seconds allows us to minimize the time we spend in the minutia of life so we can get back to what is important.

Who’s already using Seconds and helping save hours in their customers lives?

  • Quick Service Restaurants
  • Food Distributors
  • Auto Dealerships
  • Customer Service Consultants
  • Fast Food Restaurants
  • IT Consultants
  • Cafes and Coffee Shops
  • Wine Distributors
  • Beauty and Health Salons
  • Clothing Retail Outlets
  • School Districts

Check out Seconds now and start getting back those precious hours.


5 Startup Founder Rules To Live By

Apparently, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone makes all Twitter employees adopt seven rules when they join the company.  I though these were quite interesting, especially Leave space for the unknown. When I read these rules it made me sit back and think about what might be my rules.

1.  Be Original – Originality is rare today, being truly unique sets you apart from all the rest and makes you attractive to others.

2.  Don’t Ever Quit, Just Refocus – Obstacles and frustration are part of the game.  Refocusing after a setback will help you find meaning and your next milestone.

3.  High Risk-High Reward – We only have so much time on earth to make a difference, why not opt to make the most out of it.  Unfortunately high rewards require high risk.  Fortunately, most choose to risk very little leaving you with a lot of opportunity.

4.  Live Authentically –  Things have a way of coming back around so living authentically alleviates lots of future problems.

5.  Turn Complexity Into Simplicity – Successful products and technical innovation is all about simplifying the complex.  Do that and everything else takes care of itself.