Month: February 2016

The Poverty of the Rich: Minecraft Founder

In 2014, software giant Microsoft paid $2.5 billion to acquire Mojang AB, the Swedish company that created the worldwide gaming sensation Minecraft. The deal made Markus Persson a billionaire, with a personal net worth of about $1.3 billion, according to Forbes. Persson promptly outbid Beyoncé and Jay-Z for a Beverly Hills megamansion—a $70 million home that’s been described as an “overwhelming sensory experience,” as the listing read, outfitted with insane amenities like M&M towers, vodka and tequila bars, a movie theater and 15 bathrooms, each equipped, we’re told, with toilets that cost $5,600 each.

But on August 29, 2015 Persson posted a series of tweets that captured his gnawing sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction:

4:48am: The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.

4:50am: Hanging out in Ibiza with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I’ve never felt more isolated.

4:52am: When we sold the company, the biggest effort went into making sure the employees got taken care of, and they all hate me now.

4:53am: Found a great girl, but she’s afraid of me and my life style and went with a normal person instead.

Profiting from The Profit: Point #1 – by Jason Janz

I’ve recently been captivated by a CNBC series called The Profit, a reality show where Marcus Lemonis turns around failing small businesses. He starts by assessing the operation, making a partnership offer, taking absolute control of the turnaround, and executing the plan. For me, it’s a fascinating show to watch, not just as it relates to business, but as it relates to human behavior and psychology. I want to write about several lessons I have learned from watching over 20 episodes.

Profit Point 1: If your business is failing, get someone involved who is smarter than you to help you.

This is priority Numero Uno. After watching over twenty episodes, the profile of the owners share some characteristics. They are stressed out, unable to see the forest for the trees, trapped in a survival mindset, and pretty opinionated. When Marcus begins to assess the mess, the owners look at him like he has just slapped them. “Why are you selling jewelry in a hair salon?” “Why do you not have a system for inventory?” “Why don’t you know your margins?” “Why haven’t you let that person go?”

One thing is obvious. Nobody like Marcus has shown up in a long time. Within what appears like a short period of time, Marcus has sized up the business and determined if the cancer lies in one or more of his three categories: People, Process, and Product. So, why don’t owners do this before the situation becomes dire? My gut tells me that most owners (a) lack the know-how to fix it or (b) misjudge the urgency of the situation. For those who lack the know how, their pride, exhibited by insecurity or arrogance, keeps them from reaching out. For those who misjudge the urgency, they seem to think, “I’ll fix that when I get these other pressing issues out of my hair.” And these are devastating mistakes. The cancer metastasizes.

I am on the board of a church and a non-profit and the Executive Director of a non-profit. Together, we have 30 employees and a multi-million-dollar budget. When I look at the major pivot points in our work in the urban core since we started eight years ago, I can always point to someone smarter than me looking in and seeing what I couldn’t see. My only regret is not bringing them into my problems sooner. The Hebrew scriptures say, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I want to cultivate that discipline.

Jason Janz lives in Denver, CO and is pastor of a church and Executive Director of Upstream Impact, an urban non-profit that empowers people who live in poverty to move to the middle class. 

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The Poverty of the Rich

The story is told of a father of a wealthy family who took his son on a trip to the country to show his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from the trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?

“It was great, Dad.”

“Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the son.

“So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon.

“We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond sight. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, but they have their friends to protect them.”

With this, the boy’s father was speechless.

Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

Ron Blue,Faith-based Family Finances (Tyndale, 2008), pp. 29-30

 

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Perhaps It’s Time For Africa To Convert Us

Once a month, our African choir, newly named Echo Of Heaven, sings at our weekend service. Many of them come from East African refugee camps and are trying to make a go of it here in the US. When I listen, it’s a deeply spiritual experience for me. I can’t clap on their rhythm, keep up with their lyrics, or match their passion. It’s a metaphor for the mismatch of our faith. I’ve settled for a faith born out of the upper 5% – the globally rich. They’ve cultivated a faith at the opposite end. After 42 years in the American church, I have to say that what they have is more attractive than what I have. 165 years ago, David Livingston went to Africa as a missionary explorer. After that, streams of Protestant missionaries followed in his footsteps. But perhaps it’s time for the stream to flow in the opposite direction. Perhaps it’s time for Africa to come here and convert us.

(I took pictures of some of the lyrics so you can see the difference between American praise music and that borne out of suffering.)

Dedicated Fans, Fractured Families, and Snowball Fights: How Sports Brings Us Together

 

by Jason Janz

Eight years ago, Juan Pena and I, our families, and a small team of people banded together to start a church and non-profit work in an urban neighborhood in Denver. Juan and I have become a tag team as we’ve worked together on urban education, poverty alleviation, and community development. We’ve become great friends and have seen each other in the best of times and worst of times.

Our wives would tell you that sometimes our biggest challenge is unplugging from the work. Our staff team has discovered that there’s an “on-call” nature to the work coupled with an endless amount of work to be done. Without creating intentional spaces for rest and relaxation, one can develop unhealthy patterns pretty quickly. One of the ways, we both relax or “chilax” as my sons call it, is through sports.

I am a 30-year Denver resident and a dedicated Bronco fan. Juan lived in a Boston and is a die-hard Patriots fan. Both of our teams are competitive and both sit inside the same conference. So, since we started working together, our teams have been in the playoffs twelve times and actually have played each other three times in the postseason (Denver won twice, Pats only once).

So, we good-naturedly poke at each other all season long. I have plenty of fodder as long as Belichick is at the helm. And Deflate-gate. What a gift! More fun than I could’ve asked for. Of course, Peyton has plenty of chinks in his armor and so it comes back my way.

About three weeks ago, things took an interesting turn. Our teams were both in the running and looking strong going into the playoffs. As you know by now, we faced each other in the AFC Championship. But something was different this year. As the game approached, word got out that Juan’s 5-year-old son, Ezzy, was entertaining the thought of cheering for the Broncos. The parents put on a full court press and bribed him with ice cream and candy to be a true blue Patriots fan. You can see their manipulation played out here –

So, many of us Denverites banded together to “save him from the dark side.” We created a GoFundMe site (https://www.gofundme.com/5ekpeezg) and people pitched in from all over. $150 was given to purchase Broncos gear for him. After we purchased these gifts, we invited Ezzy over to our house to present the gifts. This is how that went down.

Well, as you all know, the Patriots choked and the Broncos went on to be in the Super Bowl. However, out of the blue, Juan received a call from CBS news asking if they could use his YouTube video from the Super Bowl last year where he recorded his family watching the game. It’s one for the ages and has received over 100,000 views. CBS will be using it in the pregame show to talk about dedicated fans.

Well, Antonio Johnson, Juan’s co-worker and friend, couldn’t let it rest. He reached out to local news stations and told them about the video and our journey with Ezzy. Could we use this to make him even more of a Bronco fan? Plus, Ezzy needed encouragement before the big day.

So, Antonio planned an event to further embed Ezzy in the Broncos cheering section for life. The Denver Post picked up on the story and arranged for a photo shoot with Juan in Patriots gear and Ezzy in his new Bronco gear. Antonio decided to plan an ambush of the photo shoot (which the Post was in on) by bringing a cheering section to the house. About thirty of us, decked out in orange and blue, gathered to spring the surprise. Well, when Juan saw us coming, he quickly commandeered a counter-offensive.

 

After our melee, we gathered in the house and celebrated Ezzy and our joint humanity. Sports has a way of bringing people together and bringing joy, light, and celebration into our lives.

 

Nelson Mandela once said that “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

Indeed, we have seen both here and around the world the important role that sports plays in this journey we call life. I’m thankful for Juan. I’m thankful for his friendship. I’m thankful that in the middle of serious work, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Oh yeah…GO BRONCOS!!!!!