Love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with a passionate heart, from the depths of your soul, with your every thought, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.’ You will never find a greater commandment than these.”
Just The Beginning
Everyone has a WHY.
HERE IS MINE
I wanted to build something for myself in the beginning. I graduated in architecture and worked for someone else for the first few years after college, knowing there had to be more. Then I had the opportunity to buy a business and grow it. The challenges and excitement of those first few years, balanced with the heartaches and struggles of getting something off the ground, were pure adrenaline. My dream was coming alive. I was going about life just like everyone else and pushing forward in the pursuit of a luxury home on the lake, three cars in the driveway, a beach house, and maybe if I truly made it, a 401k retirement plan where I could sail into the glory years doing nothing but sipping mai tais on the coast.
So what changed? What would make an entrepreneurial-spirited, success-driven lover of things downsize instead of buying bigger, sell it all versus buying more, and hit the road searching instead of settling down where things were easy and known?
For almost a decade, I had pursued every start-up idea entering our office. From vendor credentialing systems to clothing companies, I had owned it all. I was always looking for the next big thing that could take off, not just for my wealth but for a cause bigger than me. In the back of my mind, I knew what was placed on my heart, and I honestly never came to grips with it. I knew that a successful business was in my future and that I was called to make an impact in alleviating homelessness.
Yes, that’s right, homelessness. The furthest thing in my mind when I was in my twenties and early thirties. Even into my mid-thirties, I had the same view of people living on the streets as most others. Get off drugs, get a job, and stop panhandling the corners of every intersection in my town. And now I have a passion and a heart for those same people. Was I having a mid-life crisis on the cusp of turning 40? How could someone so self-absorbed with owning more things have this voice in his head that was so real? “Through the means and resources I am going to bless your business with, you will alleviate homelessness in this country.”
So, I did what I only knew to do. I kept pushing toward the American Dream while dabbling here and there, trying to figure out this homeless thing. I would house a homeless guy here and there for a season. I was trying to learn and help the best I could, from guys that had been incarcerated their entire adult lives to those who were addicted to drugs and had a lifestyle of being on the streets. But I was in no way ready to take on the depth of what it means to be homeless.
Then the summer before the pandemic hit, I was at the beach on vacation when I received a call from a lawyer representing a big company wanting to purchase my business. I had never really put much stock in there being value to what I was building. Outside of paying myself and my employees and the dream of something taking off, I would pursue this homeless thing when the time was right. It was a great year when we broke even, and I didn’t have to pay taxes. So, to say I had never thought of the Nine, the company I owned, being valuable is nothing short of the truth.
However, as good as it all sounded with a lucrative EBITDA, I couldn’t get an internal peace about letting go of something as close to me as the people who had become part of my external family. And there I found myself in the middle of another crossroads. Do I sell and start over on another venture that could answer a calling in the back of my head, or do I take this gift that I have been given and honestly focus on it for the first time at my total capacity?
Seek wisdom, though it costs everything, gain understanding.
Timely words for someone sitting by a pool trying to figure things out in life, and that’s exactly what they were, some timely words. It wasn’t a week before when I received a message in my inbox letting me know that Jordan Raynor, the author of Called to Create, was accepting a small number of business owners into a group for mentorship. When I first looked at the invite, I was excited, and then I looked at the cost. “Well, that will be awesome for someone with the money to invest in themselves like that,” I thought. Fast forward to the day by the pool, and I immediately started to think back on that email. Could I invest in myself like that, and what would be the impact of doing something so outside of the box for the Nine?
Well, I could, and I did, and the rest of the story is nothing short of unimaginable growth. The Nine grew from five employees to twenty-five, and our revenue for the next two years doubled year over year. We added three new departments to our services, with highly skilled team members joining the Nine at every turn. Systems and processes were being built out, all while working towards building a foundation for growth focused on giving back versus the early motives behind wanting to build a vast empire.
And that’s just the beginning of this story.
SLOWING DOWN TO SEE THE DREAM INSIDE
What if every preconceived idea you had of a city from the media needed wasn’t accurate? What if you had a picture painted in your mind that was one way, and when you stepped into the streets, it was utterly changed? Don’t get me wrong; Portland isn’t a picture-perfect postcard. But you can sense compassion and a proactive movement to support its most vulnerable residents, its homeless. It’s a testament to the city’s deep goodness, spirit, and the strength of its community.
Maybe you have to slow down and smell the roses.