Category Archives: personal

On top of the world

The energy in the room was electric. Friends and family had come from miles to celebrate.

I had graduated from college!

When the phone rang I was standing by my fiancee, my parents, and Morrie Lanning (the mayor Moorhead at that time). It was the hiring manager from Microsoft. She was calling to offer me a job!

Out of over 2,000 resumes and hundreds of people interviewed, I was one of five people hired!

I thought that life couldn’t get any better.

Everything was falling into place.

I had it all figured out and was on my way.

Of course, as some of you know, it didn’t work out the way I planned. Fast forward 17 years later and…

  • I was fired from the job and escorted out of the building my last day.
  • The relationship with my fiancee ended.
  • A banner ad changed my life.
  • A morning of prayer put me on a new path.
  • My kidneys were failing.
  • God gave me unshakeable faith.
  • I cried (many times).
  • A leap of faith to move back to the USA.
  • I ran a family business and left it five years later (one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done).
  • I started a new business.
  • God blessed me with three girls.
  • I’ve been happily married for 13 years.
  • Many countless miracles.

If you’d like to join me on this journey, I am going to focus in the coming weeks and months to write bits of the story. It has been bubbling up the past several months and it’s time.

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The day a banner ad changed my life

I was going through a particularly tough time in my life.

That evening I decided to take a break from going out with friends, and went to check my hotmail.

What e-mail looked like in 2002

While browsing e-mail, I happened upon a banner ad. You know, those annoying things that most browsers block nowadays? It was something about a service called “MSN Chat”

This was chat

I thought to myself “Why not?” and clicked. There were a ton of different rooms, what to choose…

“20something” looked interesting. After all, I was a 20something and thought it would be fun to meet people my age. I clicked again, found myself in this virtual room with 50something 20somethings (see what I did there?)

Clicking profiles to see who was there, I noticed one from the Dominican Republic.

Hmm…

I didn’t know much about that country! I wonder what life is like there?

So I introduced myself, asked a few questions.

Julia and I started talking, had a nice conversation. Added each other to IM…thought it would be fun to talk more.

I said good bye, signed off, and went to bed. Not knowing how that evening would change my life forever.

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A bus ride

I paid my fare, collected my ticket, and sat down on the bus. Something I had done hundreds of times before to make the trip from Jarabacoa to Santo Domingo, but today was different.

It would be my last time making this trip while living in the Dominican Republic.

It was my last full day on the island.

The bus started down the winding road, passing familiar sights. My mind didn’t give them much notice, nor the Steven Seagal movie that was playing on the bus’s entertainment system. I had a book in hand, a collection of short stories by Phillip K. Dick to pass the time. I remember reading one story (I believe it was called The Golden Man) that day about a man who always saw infinite possibilities in front of him. Considering all the possibilities and unknowns that were before us, it put me deep in thought.

We were set to fly out early the next day. My wife Julia, our 9 month old daughter Lara, and our dog Nina were going to embark on a new chapter of life.

Julia and Lara’s first time in the USA. Their first time experiencing winter. In fact, I remember what Julia first said when we stepped of the plane in Minneapolis a few days later, “It feels like sticking your face in the freezer” when, in fact, the freezer is warmer than what we were experiencing in Minneapolis that day.

I had membranous glomerulonephritis. I was to be part of a trial at Mayo Clinic for treatment.

We had no health insurance. With a few thousand dollars to our name (most of which I was carrying with me in cash) and some faith (I’ll get to that later), we were taking things one day or one moment at a time.


Over the coming days/weeks/months/years I will be writing out bits and pieces of my story. I haven’t said much about it but it has been bubbling up more over the past several months through questions, conversations, and thoughts.

It’s time to write it out.

There won’t be a rhyme or reason to the order I write, it will be bits as they come up. I will try to link them together, and answer questions like:

  • How did you find out you had a kidney disease?
  • How did you meet your wife? How did she get her residency so she could travel to the USA?  You mean she couldn’t travel here without a visa?
  • What were you doing in the Dominican Republic?
  • What happened with your kidneys?
  • Why were you on a bus your last day in the country?

I’m looking forward to the journey, and honored to have you join me on it!

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Drawn and chosen by love

We all tend to aim for the goal instead of the journey itself, but spiritually speaking, how we get there is where we arrive. The journey determines our final destination. If we manipulate our way, we end up with a manipulated, self-made god. If we allow ourselves to be drawn and chosen by love, we might just end up with the real God.

Only trust . No one can say , “I have it.” It is always an invitation, just enough to draw us deeper. Just enough of God to make us want more of God, but God is always in the driver’s seat. “You have not chosen me, I am always choosing you” ( John 15 : 16 ) .

Rohr, Richard. Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent (Kindle Locations 536-539). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.

It’s almost 4 a.m. and I find myself awake. Oftentimes I get a shot of adrenaline somewhere around 3 a.m. and wake up left to my thoughts or worries (mostly self-inflicted or manufactured “what-ifs”).

I decided to get out of bed and do some journalling.

It helps with my thoughts, it allows me to separate my emotions from my feelings.

If we allow ourselves to be drawn and chosen by love, we might just end up with the real God…Only trust…it is always an invitation, just enough to draw us deeper…just enough of God to make us want more of God.

To be drawn and chosen by love! What a beautiful statement and promise. Like being drawn into a river’s current.

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Enjoy the journey

enjoy the journey

The universe is screaming this at me lately, so I wanted to share it here.

You see, recently I quit my job to focus on a startup that I’ve been working on for the past year with two other partners. I thought I was ready having run several businesses in the past. But this is the first time I’ve run a business without the safety net of a full time job.

I see now why many people don’t take the risk.

There is a haunting sense of freedom and responsibility when you know that each dollar, each opportunity, each step won’t happen without you making a direct effort towards it. The horizon is filled with the promise of a wealth of abundance, but there is a shadow near you that is filled with fear, uncertainty, doubt, and a mindset of scarcity.

The trick is to focus on, and enjoy, the journey.

We all tend to aim for the goal instead of the journey itself , but spiritually speaking , how we get there is where we arrive . The journey determines the final destination . If we manipulate our way , we end up with a manipulated , self – made god . If we allow ourselves to be drawn and chosen by love , we might just end up with the real God .

Rohr, Richard. Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent (Kindle Locations 527-529). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.

Townsend Wardlaw:

We’ve all heard the maxim about life being about the journey than the destination right?

As far as I’m concerned, your only destination is under six feet of dirt so you better appreciate every step of the way there!

It’s 2017 now and I made countless difficult decisions over the last year… I just can’t seem to remember many of them.

I will go so far as to say I don’t remember most of the truly difficult and gut wrenching choices I have made over the course of my life.

My reasoning is simple.

Life is about choosing what you will do next.

Yesterday never happened and tomorrow may never come.

There is only this moment and in this moment you possess the power to choose what you will do next.

how to enjoy it

Practice gratitude, be present, let go and receive what is being given freely.

Send a reply, share, or comment if this has been meaningful for you.

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The key to success

Several years ago I subscribed to Townsend Wardlaw‘s e-mail list. I don’t remember why or how I got connected, what I do know is it’s one of two subscriptions I receive where I make a point to read each one. (Contact me if you’re interested in learning about the other one!)

Here’s a response I sent him to his latest post…


I’ve been reflecting on this e-mail off and on throughout the morning.

About a month ago I quit my job to work full-time on my startup. I’ve run other businesses in the past, but this is the first time that my business is my only thing…no other safety net except for the equity payout from my last job.

That wasn’t the difficult decision that I’m replying to you about.

The difficult decision happened five years ago. I was working for a large agriculture company at a stable job with good pay. The work was easy. I kept finding myself saying each day “I’ve never been this busy and this bored”.

At the same time I was running a family ag-retail business. I’d been running it for five years but earlier that year I had the realization that it was the wrong business for me. Everything going on my life (with the exception of my family) felt like I was living someone else’s life.

I made a choice to sell out my share of the family business. By sell out I mean I basically got rid of all assets at cost, walked away with nothing. It’s difficult to put into words the pain and confusion that came as I walked through the aftermath of that decision.

I spent two years rebuilding everything – my career, finances, relationships with family members. It gave me the foundation to take my most recent leap into my startup. Thank you for your thoughts today on the journey.

I’m going through an advent study by Richard Rohr; he touched on this today as well. It’s a good reminder for me to focus on and enjoy the journey rather than the destination. Here’s a quick note from that study. It’s spiritually focused but broadly beyond just what would be traditionally called “Christian”.

We all tend to aim for the goal instead of the journey itself, but spiritually speaking, how we get there is where we arrive. The journey determines our final destination. If we manipulate our way, we end up with a manipulated, self-made god. If we allow ourselves to be drawn and chosen by love, we might just end up with the real God.


 Here is the original e-mail. If you like it please subscribe to his e-mail list here:

Some people consider me successful so I wanted to share the story of my success.

In 1991, I graduated from college and moved from Connecticut to Santa Cruz, California with $500 in my pocket. I did not have a job lined up and my only safety net was a friend who agreed to let me sleep on his couch for a month.

In 1995 I was fired from my job managing a bike shop in Boulder, Colorado. For the next year, I worked in a call center and managed a burrito shop. I was 27 years old and my W-2 for that year was $14,400.

In 1996, I got my first ‘real’ job working for a long distance reseller. This job involved making upwards of 120 cold calls per day. Luckily, the one hour commute (each way) gave me plenty of time to think about how much my life sucked.

After only three months, I talked my way into an account executive role with AT&T. As I was resigning from the job I was leaving, the branch manager told me I’d regret my decision.

After only a year with AT&T, I left to join a start-up division of a massive corporation. My manager told me I’d be branded a job hopper and never make it.

The startup was closed down after 12 months and I was reassigned to a division selling Y2K testing and validation software (it was late 1999.)

After calling the hiring manager every day for six months, I talked my way into a job with Lucent.

Within a year, my role was part of the ‘spin off’ to a new company called Avaya.

By 2001, I was married, had two young children, two car payments, and a mortgage.

Despite making more than $270,000 a year I was miserable. Every Sunday morning I woke up with a pit in my stomach dreading having to work the next day so…

I quit my job to start my own company. It was March of 2002 and the Dot Com bubble burst. Every one of my clients pulled funding for my services.

In 2005, my company reached $1M in Revenue and I paid myself for the 1st time. I couldn’t remember the last time I slept more than five hours a night.

After growing the company to 80 people, I closed the doors of my company in 2009. You can read about my failure here.

In June of that same year, I began what would be several years of an painful, ugly, and mostly self-inflicted divorce. I also declared personal bankruptcy to deal with more than $2M in personal guarantees from my failed business.

For the next year, I ended each month with less than $10 in my bank account. I struggled to pay my bills and was months behind on support payments.

In mid 2010, my divorce was finalized.

Around the same time, my lifestyle had gotten a little out of control and I was evicted from the luxury apartment I was renting in Downtown. The lawsuit alleged ‘damaging the reputation of the building.’

By 2011, I got my shit together and built up my personal consulting practice to a place where I could pay my bills.

Later that year, I realized how badly my children were struggling with the divorce.

I ‘fired’ every one of my clients because I could no longer travel and be away from my sons.

Once again, I was starting from scratch.

By the summer of 2012 I concluded an 18 month custody battle for my youngest son. The legal bills ran well into six figures.

In September of 2013, I sent my youngest son away to what I affectionately call a ‘get your shit together school.’ That was one of the hardest days of my life.

My consulting practice was thriving yet despite having what many would consider incredible income; support payments and the cost of a ‘therapeutic boarding school’ left me with almost nothing in the bank at the end of every month.

In 2016, I ended a seven year relationship with a woman I was engaged to marry. You can read my controversial article about my experience here.

Do you see a pattern here?

My success (and more importantly my happiness) has been abyproduct of difficult choices made over the course of my life.

We’ve all heard the maxim about life being about the journey than the destination right?

As far as I’m concerned, your only destination is under six feet of dirt so you better appreciate every step of the way there!

It’s 2017 now and I made countless difficult decisions over the last year… I just can’t seem to remember many of them.

I will go so far as to say I don’t remember most of the truly difficult and gut wrenching choices I have made over the course of my life.

My reasoning is simple.

Life is about choosing what you will do next.

Yesterday never happened and tomorrow may never come.

There is only this moment and in this moment you possess the power to choose what you will do next.

If you have a moment, hit reply and tell me about one of the difficult choices you have made in your lifetime.

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Punch fear in the face!

I just got back from vacation.

As a family, we spent two beautiful weeks in the Dominican Republic. Aside from sibling rivalry (picture two normally beautiful children making every effort to drive the other one crazy) the trip was refreshing.

We visited friends and family.

There were laughs and smiles on the beach.

There were adventures! I punched fear in the face. TWICE.

First, there was the zip line 50 feet above a 90-foot deep lagoon.

Next, on a whim, I went paragliding for the first time.

I enjoyed each of these activities immensely. But, in all honesty, I didn’t want to do either of them before I started. Oh, there was part of me that wanted to but there were 1,000 other voices in my head telling me no. My knees shook, my heart fluttered, I dreamt up excuse after excuse to not take the leap (literally).

Rather than succumb to defeat I politely but firmly told my fears to shut it. And you know what?

IT WORKED!

I’m on to bigger fears now. One of them is writing this post. Another is sharing some of my fears…here they are:

  • Lose 20 pounds.
  • Be more vulnerable with my family.
  • Be disciplined about habits I’m trying to create.
  • Manage money better and not be afraid of it.

Wishing each of you the best as you face fears and give them a whack!

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I love food and the people I meet because of it!

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ve always enjoyed food. Well, that’s not 100% true. My parents told me that when I was a baby, I was born premature and had trouble eating. This didn’t last long though. One day my dad was watching me at home and fed me an entire bowl of oatmeal. To his surprise I ate the whole thing and haven’t looked back since!

As a kid I was an adventurous eater, always wanting to try different things at restaurants. One time when I was eight years old, we were at a restaurant. The waitress asked me what I wanted and I said “PBR me!” My parents put a stop to that one before I got in any trouble. Another time we went to the original Chipotle’s (before it was a national franchise). I ordered the veggie burrito because a black bean burrito sounded like a good idea. I still haven’t lived that one down with my family, despite being 12 at the time.

I am fascinated by foods in different cultures. They are a gateway to understanding a culture’s history and behavior. There are always amazing stories around food. Ask someone to tell you about their favorite meal or dish, and their eyes will light up. They will share a memory of a meal at their grandmother’s house or perhaps a travel experience.

For this reason I started a group in Fargo called “The International Potluck“. It’s mission was to connect people through food and story-telling. My own selfish ambition was to meet new people and try some good food. The first Potluck was held in February of 2016. 25 people showed up, all invited by me. We had a great time sharing food and stories. Someone offered to host the next one at his studio. Oh, of course there should be a next one!

Attendees of the first Potluck
Attendees of the first Potluck

Two months later we did just that. This time 65 people came! I knew 10 of them. I thought to myself, I might be on to something here…

The second Potluck -
The second Potluck –

In June we hosted another. Same thing – 65 people, I knew a few of them. People asking if we would host another one in July. They offered to help with setup, graphic design, etc. It was growing!

The third Potluck, hosted in June
The third Potluck, hosted in June

Shortly after that event I received an e-mail from a dear friend. She introduced me to the CEO of the Plains Art Museum. The museum wanted to host community events in the cafe; was I interested in hosting my Potluck there? Of course I was! We met, planned an event for October. 100 people came! We had a speaker who shared the story of the Yazidi people. A TV crew came to interview him.

Fourth Potluck, first one at the Plains! This was a proud moment for me.
Fourth Potluck, first one at the Plains! This was a proud moment for me.

I’ve met many wonderful people through this event. In the coming weeks I will share stories about each of them, telling their background and some of the fun we have had.

Many cultures, one plate
Many cultures, one plate
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“I think I just tooted”

Last night I went through the normal bedtime routine with Emma. We read our princess story, sang a few songs, then snuggled and prayed.

As I got up I looked at her and said “I love you so much Emma, I am grateful for every moment with you and thank God for you every day.”

Emma smiled and responded: “I think I just tooted…”

20160806_191549

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“Song of the Sea” – A beautiful movie

A few nights ago we were looking for a good family movie to watch while we ate pizza.

We opened the Amazon movie app and “Song of the Sea” caught our eye. This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. This film has a well-deserved 99% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Critics Consensus:Song of the Sea boasts narrative depth commensurate with its visual beauty, adding up to an animated saga overflowing with family-friendly riches.

Each frame is gorgeous, the type of movie you could pause at any moment and marvel at the beautiful art.

In addition to the beautiful music and animated art, the story is compelling and rich. Themes of love, embracing emotion, and remembering our past are all woven into an enchanting story.

Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. One of the things I love most about having kids is the excuse to watch animated movies. Like children themselves, children’s stories often have wonderful meanings and beauty for adults if we take the time to watch and listen.

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