Category Archives: Career

Where We Work

I recently launched a new business venture at RedReynolds.com wherein I spend 25% of my time building websites for small-businesses and individuals, 25% of my time consulting with startup companies on Information Technology, Web, and Software strategy, and 50% of my time developing my own products and services to sell on the internet. What an adventure! One reflection I have had is on the fact that where we work becomes wrapped in with our identities really quickly.

Working for a ministry in your vocation, it is easy to start to feel pretty good about yourself because you get up every day and roll into a church to a cushy office where you are surrounded by people who support you (typically). You begin to feel more righteous and justified simply by the location where you work. This comfortable identification with the place where you work creeps up on you before you realize it and it impacts your thinking.

How I realized this was making the change to go out on my own and work remotely after 9 years working in ministry. Work remotely? Yep, that means every coffee shop and open wifi space within 5 square miles of my home has become my office at some point. Interestingly, this change has brought a lot of freedom and also a lot of reflections on where I find my worth, where my trust comes from, and what is required to feel comfortable.

What I am learning is that who we are needs to be more about who God has made us to be then the material & earthly artifacts we start to trust in if we are not careful.

What Unemployed Men Need

Recently a good friend of my wife and I came home to her husband (who is also my hunting buddy) laid off from his job. Others provided the typical responses of shock and disdain for the former employer I am sure. Having been laid off three times in my short technology career of 13 years, I provided some really straight talk to her about what her husband needed. I guess it was helpful or something because she shared it with others and they seemed to like it too. In case it is useful (and I hope it never has to be), here is what unemployed men need in my humble opinion:

Depression.

If he is unemployed more than three weeks, count on it. Pep-rally’s are nice, but the best way to help him is to demand sex and be willing to do all the work. Seriously, it does something with the endorphins in the brain and keeps the serotonin flowing. If it gets bad, and it is unlikely to, don’t wait to get on low dosage of anti-depressants… wish I had known to do it.

Identity.

he’s a hard worker, and being without work is like being without your name and your wallet. You feel naked and unsure of who you are. May not happen at first, but just a matter of time… especially if depression hits. Expect him to have to reexamine who he is and how others value him… and how God sees him too.

Truth.

He’ll struggle to find the anchor points of truth in his life. This could even lead to being short/snappy/closed off. It’s cause when you are laid off it feels like you are walking on one of those bridges that goes wobbly during an earthquake. It’ll feel to him like he can’t plant his feet or walk straight. He doesn’t need to talk about it over and over again… may just remind him of his failure. What he needs is for you to remind him of God’s word… and what God has done for you two in the past in providing. Cause him to reflect by talking about how happy you are in the marriage and with your home. Thank him even when his breath is bad, his face ain’t shaved, and he is drinking beer for breakfast (that won’t last long).

Dizziness.

Expect the first week to be a haze. He might be acting business as usual, but deep inside he is mourning. Not that any job is that special, but you mourn the loss of the security/certainty/provision. Allow him to go through all the grieving stages as though he has lost a family member. Listen, don’t talk… he just wants to know you are in love with him no matter what… reassurance won’t touch what is going on inside… but devotion will.

Fighting.

Don’t do it. Neither start fights nor finish them. This will be hard, but he is in no condition to fight productively, so you are just asking to get hurt and to leave him feeling inadequate.

Leads.

When he has job leads, be excited but not forecasting. Don’t start imagining life with this job or the other job. Sets you up for disappointment and him up for failure. Be optimistic and supportive, but not portraying it as the savior of your finances and life.

Friends and Family.

They are all shocked too. They will want to pray and be involved in the day to day. Guard him, he doesn’t need the pressure of having to find the right road and drive the stupid summer camp bus with all it’s passengers. Hold people at a distance on details about the job search, while at the same time letting them know what your needs are if you have them. This includes family. He doesn’t need you babbling to your friends and mother about his potential jobs and the ones that never materialized. He’ll feel like he disappointed you and them. Find kind ways of thanking them for their interest and pointing their fears for you back to trust in Christ.

Fishing and Hunting.

Let him do as much of it as you can afford. If it feels like a vacation, he’ll do more interviewing, more resume sending, and be more relaxed during phone call screens. Make him play even if he feels he needs to be job searching. Finding a job is now his full time job, but he needs the encouragement to take breaks to deal with exhaustion, depression, and the above. Killing things helps.

Prayer and Submission.

Do a lot of it for him, but also encourage him to fully trust in Jesus and pray aloud his dependence on him. You guys do this together. It doesn’t have to be a long, tearful spiritual moment. Just needs to be a daily confession of the two of you standing together waiting on Jesus to make the way. Repeat together what God has given you that is good and praise him for that. Use prayer to remind him of God’s promises. Keep it brief cause he may fall asleep (I know I used to).

Grandmother 2.0

(Mom, I know you are reading this, but I just had to blog this.)

So while laying in the bath (don’t picture it) catching up on my email on my iPhone this morning I get this from my Skype-friendly mother:

>> I noticed that your location on Twitter is still Frisco. I enjoy
>> reading it. Did you get the email from Facebook about adding me?

To which I responded to my mom:

< snip >
> Thankfully I have a policy of never doing anything online that
> my mother would not approve of, so I am safe. You have to be the most
> technically with it woman over 60. You are not supposed to even know what
> Facebook is, much less be on it.
> No, we can’t be friends, you are my mother. The last thing I need is my
> friends ganging up with my mom to do an intervention or something. Yes
> I still have a healthy fear of your wrath and of disappointing you. I
> thought you were retiring to knit, bird watch, and befriend Oprah…what
> is this grandmother 2.0?

I am sure that response will seem harsh to those of you who don’t know exactly how much I really love my momma and how much I admire her. The truth is, she is the one who taught me Windows ’98 and got me my first technology job during that horrible period after school where most of us didn’t have a clear career path.

My point in sharing all of this is to A) brag on my mom to butter her up before she comes to Florida to visit, B) bring out the fact that she isn’t the only older person I am seeing with technical and social software where-with-all. Over the last two years I have had a number of older persons send me “suggestions” about how to improve the websites I oversee, as well as to let me know when something isn’t quite working the way it should. With non-profits, they are especially proficient at online giving and web streaming. It seems they are also highly interested in when events start. Bygones.

What I am trying to say is that I think we now have Grandmother 2.0, which I will define as “a women who has planted two generations of family and knows more than the average Generation X person”. Why Generation X you ask? Because there seems to be a dividing line between most of us and the digital-natives that is marked around 1980.

Is anyone else seeing what I am seeing?

(Mom, I know I told you after you discovered my blog not to comment on posts…but feel free to share your thoughts.)

Settling In In West Palm Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida is a fantastic place to begin my next phase in ministry. Settling in at this church has been easy, and the staff has been more than welcoming. For me, as expected, it has been easy. Ashley on the other hand has had to deal with keeping the kids for long periods of time with little relief as I spend long hours meeting everyone, putting out some fires, and finishing up a 6 month launch of LifeFaithFusion.com For her so far, it has been what she feared. That will change.

In spite of this, we are settling in. Every day I come home and boxes are magically unpacked. We are finding places to dry-clean our clothes, buy food, and send Fedex packages. The kids have a bigger smile on their face every day. We can go swimming every night. Last week we went to the beach and watched 30 surfers fight over the right place in the wave. We saw a storm roll in fast and chase us all to our cars in less than 10 minutes. This is an adventure no doubt, and your prayers and support are coveted. It will take some time it seems for this to be our normal, but we are starting to get our bearings.

We went to a prayer service last night that had 1500+ people. Just a regular old Wednesday night here. It’s refreshing to see people passionate about prayer and hearing stories of Jesus doing His deal. I was encouraged that the head pastor of this 12,000 person church regularly calls members and staff who are going through a difficult time. He has managed to maintain his pastoral care duties while running this giga-church. I have worked for smarter, more theological, more focused big-time leaders, but never have I worked for a significant leader so passionate about sharing Jesus and doing life with those he leads. He is a servant of the multitudes, and while he doesn’t get everything right he is pushing us all to better model Christ in everything we do.

We Crossed the Florida State Line

After three days of travel, we crossed the Florida line on Friday and stayed in Pensacola Florida in a Howard Johnson Express Inn. Let me say, when they say 2 stars on Hotwire.com, they mean it. Don’t fall for the $57 special. While the room was clean, the area and parking lot were really rough. Some guns were left in the car with the things we didn’t unpack and some where in the room with us, that is all I am saying.

Hotwire.com did not let me down for last night though. We made it all the way to Orlando and the 3.5 star deal for $68 put us in a Sheraton Suites. When I booked it, I didn’t think about the last half of that company name. The Suite is a nice, two-room suite overlooking the pool. They should rename themselves to Sheraton Sweets… cause it is beautiful and we are having a great time. For 3.5 stars, this is about as nice as it comes. Free internet too (in the business center), so you know that makes me happy.

We are about to head to breakfast, but let me give you a short run down on what kind of trials have been involved in this trip:

  • Ashley wasn’t feeling well
  • Jason Has Pink Eye or an Eye Infection (so he can’t drive)
  • Sydney Was Getting Motion Sickness and Vomiting
  • Lily Wants to Go Home and is Vocal About It

Good times! We’ll be at our new home by 4 this afternoon though … so things will get better. We’ll see how things go with one blow-up mattress for two adults and two snugly little girls for the next two nights as we await our things to arrive.

A New Job and Neighborhood

Word is starting to get out a bit that I have resigned my position with Stonebriar Community Church this week and accepted a position with the 30th largest church in the US. We wanted to let all of you know this as early in the process as possible, but also had some details to work out before I could make things official. I have been away from consistent blogging for awhile so that I could get this life decision made.

Where is this?

Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, Florida offered me a CIO type role that was just too awesome to not consider. After a rapid, yet extensive interview process, Ashley and I came to the same conclusion as Christ Fellowship that God had created an amazing fit between what they need in a technology leader and what God has made me to do. I will initially manage a department of 6-8 folks doing everything from programming to helpdesk to data warehousing. The team is pretty junior, but very talented none the less. Really a good group to be able to mentor.

What will you be doing, exactly?

For some of the more technology challenged readers, I will try to boil this down for you. I will manage a team of people who keep the email working, the files storing, the computers healthy, the data safe, the website updated, the member contact information reportable, the videos playing, the telephones working, etc.

In addition to these regular Church IT duties, I will be helping the church navigate the technology waters to a place of understanding how technology can be leveraged to improve the way they do the Christian life together. Whether this is through a better website that connects people with each other, systems that help improve the discipleship of church members, or an intranet for better communication within the staff, the goal of the position will be to partner with the other executives to champion technology projects that are sponsored internally. I am a change agent for technology within a church who already loves change and technology. What could be more fun?

Are You Moving?

Well yes we are. Believe it or not, God’s call on our life in this case was so strong it is making us give up our Texas residence. Leaving our friends, family, and this great State of Texas (Long live the Republic) were about the only downsides of this ministry move. We are seriously grieving moving to the beach. Some of our friends are just laughing in our pitiful faces and saying, “There are a lot worse places to serve the Lord. It could be Africa or a Peanut Farm!” Thank you Jesus it isn’t both! And they are right, West Palm Beach is about the most affluent place you can be a church worker. Living in constant good weather and around nice things shouldn’t be such a pain. We just love what we have here. We are comfortable. We are fully supported.
Some scripture came to mind in this that haunted us a bit:

Mathew 16: 24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

Mark 1: 16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17“Come, follow me,” Jesus said. 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

When is this happening?

My last day of work at Stonebriar is August 10th and my first day of work with Christ Fellowship is August 13th. I will work remotely for three weeks. We will move over Labor Day weekend, with my first day on site being September 3rd. “There is a lot left to do” is an understatement of understatements.

With this having happened this week, I have heaps more to say about this, but it will have to wait cause I am out of time for today. We’ll write more soon.

From Bubble Graphs to Mind Maps

Bubble Graphs

I can honestly say there are almost no learning techniques from Jr. High that I have carried forward through my short academic life into business. However, there is one gift that a now nameless, faceless teacher once gave me. That gift was the ability to put my thoughts on paper first, and then dork with them and refine them. She (I think it was a “she”) called them “Bubble Graphs”, but the point was to brainstorm about a topic for a speech, a paper, or an argument and document things. Then go back and do the organization and structuring of those thoughts, with a final output being an outline.

Those of you who have conversed with me for more than a few moments know that my brain multi-threads pretty well when thinking, speaking, and typing. It doesn’t do so well with multi-tasking actual work, but it is highly optimized for thinking. This becomes problematic when my environment puts certain constraints on me, like for instance time, energy, and sleep. So, in time I developed a method of getting my rapid, fluid thoughts out of my brain and onto one of these “Bubble Graphs”.

I started using them in Junior High in Extemporaneous Speaking contests, and then used them at Baylor on almost every paper I wrote and every speech I gave as a Speech Communications major. This approach even helped when I entered the business world as I created Powerpoints, training documentation, technology proposals, project plans, and conducted audits of companies. For me, it was simply the best way to get the unstructured data that flowed rampantly in my brain onto paper, and then decide how the concepts were related, what was worth keeping, and how the final deliverable would be structured. I now know this method to be the same as a concept map.

Mind Maps

About four years ago I stumbled on some software that would allow me to do “mind mapping”. The differences between a mind map and a concept map are subtle. Basically a mind map tends to be more structured in format and there is typically no direct grouping of concepts other than by what the structure and hierarchy of the mind map document provides. That said, the process for creating a mind map and a concept are essentially the same.

Mind mapping software enables a person or persons to quickly document ideas on a screen with almost no technical difficulties that would hamper the creative process. And yet, these ideas can be restructured very speedily by simply dragging and dropping an idea underneath another idea. This creates a very agile approach to document individual or group ideation, whether it be mission statements, business plan outlines, venture capital pitches, or things as abstract as meal recipe organization. It can even help with brainstorming about lengthy blog posts (see my mind map for this post below).

FreeMind Mind Mapping Software

After trying many different mind mapping software products over the last four years, I have finally settled on one that I can’t get enough of. FreeMind is the tool I have recommended recently to a number of other internet professionals. Regardless of the varying ways they think, they almost always come back and say “the more I use this, the more I use this”. Once you really “get” this process and this kind of tool, you begin to find heaps of other ways in which it will help you.

I recently used FreeMind on a consulting engagement where I was asked to make recommendations about how to turn their business around. I took notes of each stakeholder conversation in individual text documents, but then used the mind map to tie all the concepts, problem spaces, and solutions together. This aided me in understanding a large, complex problem at a single glance. It came in handy when it was time to draft the deliverable document of my recommendations.

Also, recently, I used FreeMind on a 150+ page web project to develop the navigation scheme (Information Architecture) that will easily expand in the future to more than 500 pages. The two freelance designers I was working with were able to collaborate on my work by simply opening my file and changing things up. On this same large project, 15 of us used FreeMind during a series of meetings to create a massive mind map that profiles our eight core audience member types. We included each of those profiles characteristics, needs, and the many ways we felt we could meet their needs based on what resources we have available to our organization. This was an invaluable tool in not only understanding our audience, but in helping us as a team to decide which of the 8 types of people coming to our website would be our core focus, which would be of secondary focus, and who we would try to serve as we could.

Why I Love FreeMind

  • Free to use(yep, it’s open source)
  • Cross platform
  • Scalable for very large maps
  • Easily installed and updated
  • Has numerous export options (images, PDFs, outlines in various file types)
  • Built with Java and XML

There seems to exist a little online community around the FreeMind software, which is maybe best illustrated in this online list of mind maps that you can explore for ideas on how to do your own. I am especially fond of this start on Calvinist “Sects”.

Mind Map for This Blog Post

FreeMind Mind Map

Google Calendar

Use Google Calendar. Much like a MacBook, it will make you happy and change the way you do life. Then, share your calendar with me so I will know when you are available to have Starbucks or Skype.
If you don’t have a gmail account yet, you are a loser and lack perspective. Use it… it will save you many headaches from trying to find old emails, fighting spam, and having to delete large emails you don’t yet know are important. I will send you an invite if you can’t get one otherwise. Let me know.

Next, make lifehacker a daily read so you can learn how to use all three tools above and more. They will feed the flame of your lust for more Google services. Consider yourself warned and tempted.

Where have you been?

Everywhere and nowhere is the best answer. Truth is I haven’t had much to say. Been focusing a ton of my energy on finding a big whitetail to that will bring some temporal joy.

I have gone hunting but am back for a time. Go again in a week for 24 hours of bliss. Ashley encourages this you know. She sometimes uses it as a negotiating tool, but for the most part she knows my batteries get recharged by being in the woods attempting to rule-over the earth. Not much ruling going on this year, I admit. Outsmarted every way I turned. There is a reason beautiful bucks grow old and die alone, and it is the same reason the one I wanted didn’t present a shot. We aren’t the only mammals with brains thank you very much.

Over the last few days though, more and more non-hunting things are coming to mind, so I thought I would start the rambling again. Been working pretty hard at being the dad I need to be and the husband I want to be. Also, the job isn’t what it once was. More interested in my web marketing and consulting clients than what pays most of my bills. The opportunity seems to be there to go it alone and start an interactive agency. Yes I know the stat which says 90% of small businesses fail in the first two years. Still, I have been in the top 10 percent in most everything I have done in my life, and I am thinking that with reliance on a higher power I might could make it. More reflections to come as I work through things.

Thanks for your patience as I get back in the habit of writing and telling my stories. Feel free to comment or even send traffic back to your own site with a powerfully satirical comment.