Prayer As An Act of Faith

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Recommended to read while listening to Oceans, Hillside United

My wife has been in the hospital since Thursday (5 days ago).  I’ve been spending a lot of hours in prayer the last few days.  It has caused me to think about the concept of prayer and its function.  

I’ve narrowed my conclusions down to responses to the following two questions:

  1. Can prayer change things in this world?

How can our requests to God accomplish anything if God is truly omniscient (all knowing) and almighty?  He not only knows what we are going to pray but has surely already aligned those prayers with his plan (EPH 1:11).  So, do our prayers influence anything in this world and if so, how?

The Bible does tell us that God hears our prayers (1 John 5:14).  The Bible also tells us that our prayers can accomplish something (James 5:16).  

So we have this paradox (An almighty and all knowing God vs the concept of free will) – God already knows everything that is going to happen while at the same time he gives us free will to influence what is going to happen.

Paradoxes only occur when we have absolute truths.  The absolute truths that I have been able to discern in my short (and far too limited) research of scripture are these:

So, it seems that the possibility does exist (through free will) to pray and influence God when we are of His will.  Which I can sort of wrap my head around because that is the purpose of free will to being with.  Without free will we are just actors playing out a script that God has already written and we have zero influence over the ending.  With free will, we are given a choice – to either act out in accordance with God’s will OR act in accordance with some other plan.  If we choose to act in line with God’s will then He will listen and will be there to help us.  This however implies the power of prayer is only helpful when it is in accordance to His will.

I still don’t feel that I have fully answered the question – Can prayer change things in this world?

I suppose that is because paradoxes can’t be explained in our minds.  Paradoxes are perhaps more comprehensible to a higher being like God, yet still confusing and unexplainable to human beings like myself.

  1. What is the purpose of prayer?

Since I wasn’t able to answer the above question conclusively I’m not (yet) willing to claim that the purpose of prayer is to change things in this world.  It might be one of the purposes, but I’m convinced it is not the only purpose.

I spend a lot of my prayer time listening to music. One song I often listen to while praying and have actually had on repeat for the last hour while writing this post is Oceans, Hillside United.  

The song Oceans has these lyrics:

I will call upon your name…

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith would be made stronger in the present of my Savior

In these lyrics I find a powerful reason for prayer – Trust and Faith.

Trust that His plan is what is best and Faith that aligning our plan with His plan will draw us closer to Him.  To me, prayer is an act of Faith and exercising that act helps us understand and consequently execute His plan.

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I’m sitting in the hospital right now on day 5 of watching the woman I love suffer.  The doctors say she is most likely heading into surgery tomorrow.  The day before we arrived she was surfing in the ocean with me.  This would be the second surgery of it’s type in 4 months. It puts the woman I love at risk, puts her in more pain, and involves a difficult recovery for her.  This is not my plan.  I don’t like this plan.  I don’t understand this plan.  And it hard for me to get behind this plan.  But each time I pray on this topic, I pray that God’s will be done.  I pray that I won’t become bitter if this is the plan that God has.  I pray that he uses this situation to further his plan and for his Kingdom to be glorified.  

Prayer is a topic that seems to be full of paradoxes that are beyond what my mind can comprehend.  What I can understand at this time is I can use prayer to align my will with God’s will as an act of faith.

Trying to be like Noah Kagan…and succeeding. $1,000 Challenge Complete.

This post is cross posted from the Awesome Inc blog. View the Awesome Inc blog here

 

Let me start off by saying Noah Kagan is a pimp. He recently published this article about how he made $1000 (in profit) in 24 hours selling beef jerky subscriptions. What a piiiiiimmmpppppp!

He titled the article The Results of the 24 Hour Challenge. Being the competitive entrepreneur that I am, I wanted to take the challenge. With a Startup Weekend Lexington event just a couple weeks away, I decided that would be my opportunity to try to start a $1000 business. My plan — attempt what Noah did in 24 hours in a full weekend. And when I say “what Noah did” I mean exactly what Noah did.  Beef Jerky Subscription Service.  Period.  I “iterated” on the idea exactly zero.  Just ‘stole it’ and executed like crazy for two days, along with the seven other people on my team. Here are the results:

Subscriptions needed to hit $1000 profit: 244

Subscriptions needed per hour: 9.4 (based on 26 hours of actual work)
Total Subscriptions Sold:
267

Total profit: $1095

Total revenue: $5340

Hours worked: 26

Beef Jerky Consumed: 100+ ounces

Since Noah already wrote about the process, I’ll focus on what I learned. I kept a log throughout the weekend, which you can find at end of this post.

So, what did I learn:

  1. Sales are hard – Most entrepreneurs I know avoid doing sales for as long as they can.  That’s because it’s usually the hardest part. Too bad it’s the most important part and avoiding it only delays answers to important questions about your business. No one likes asking people for money. You just have to suck it up and do it. Early Saturday, several members of our team were saying, “I’m not up for this. These people don’t want what we’re selling and I feel bad pushing it on them.” It was cool to see the transformation occur over time and by Sunday afternoon everyone was on their phone closing sales. Like anything – the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. Get comfortable with being told no. Also, you have to believe in the product you’re selling. If you don’t, it’s going to be tough to push your product.

    If you need a pump me up before doing some sales calls,
    watch this scene from Boiler Room.  We watched this whenever we felt ourselves losing steam.

    Above: our team in sales mode and about to hit the goal

  2. Acquiring customers is ALL that matters – nothing else; not the website, not a logo, not a fancy demo. Props to Anthony Bosschem for figuring this and writing a cool post about it here – How I got my first customers without having a product.
    Within the first hour, we had a
    landing page and paypal account setup.  It wasn’t the prettiest system ever, but it was enough. Our domain name didn’t even work until about 5 hours in so we were directing people to a long ugly github link.  We found errors with our paypal buttons all the way into the 30th hour. Who cares.  What we had was enough to sell beef jerky delivery subscriptions. Everyone knows what beef jerky is, so all we were doing was finding people that wanted more of it and wanted it delivered to their door.  

    We had to resist the urge to do things like offer free samples, come up with a cooler domain name, make a promo video, add extra descriptions to our website, or offer other product lines.

One quick aside — before we started the weekend we weren’t certain if we wanted to sell beef jerky subscriptions or healthy snack box subscriptions (i.e., Naturebox). So, we decided that we’d focus on beef jerky, but also offer healthy snack boxes to people that don’t like beef jerky. We’re probably going to be kicking ourselves when we have to fulfill the snack box orders, but ultimately, it did help us reach the $1,000 mark.  We sold about 50 snack box subscriptions and the rest were beef jerky (out of our 262 total sales).

  1. Your customer is not everyone – If they aren’t buying, move on. I spent over an hour on one potential customer. Granted it was on Facebook chat while working other leads, but he didn’t even buy. An entire hour and no sale! I spent another hour on a customer that did eventually buy a three month subscription, but I quickly realized the hour wasn’t worth it. Here’s the deal: if they aren’t interested, don’t waste your time. It’s not personal. Maybe they don’t like beef jerky, maybe they don’t have the money, maybe they just watched Home Alone 5 and thought it would be better than the previous 4 and now they’re taking it out on you. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. Move on to someone that is interested. Another note on this — if your potential customer is having serious hesitations before buying, this is a good sign that they are going to be a high maintenance and/or flaky customer that you don’t even want.  Also, if said potential customer is a friend, you are probably straining the relationship more than the sale is worth if they’re having serious hesitations about spending $20 on some meat.

  1. Determine what works and focus on it… this takes discipline.  
    We started off with low hanging fruit — close friends and family. Then we went to Facebook messaging people that were online, then gchat, then texting/phone calls, then Twitter. It was hard to measure what was working and even harder to focus on it once we determined what was working. It’s so easy to get distracted by that new friend that just signed onto Facebook when what you need to be doing is calling up the business owner that might buy 6 months for his office. Our team would run 1-2 hour sales sprints and then we’d regroup to see what was working.  After each sprint we would track our sales and see where they were coming from. We kept a tight feedback loop. We found out that Noah was right — real time communication wins. 90% of our sales came from real time communication, things like phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, gchat.
    The majority of our sales came from our own network. This is typical and can eventually become discouraging because you don’t think you can ever scale with this strategy. But just remember — Facebook started at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg’s closest classmates first. It then scaled after he proved and perfected the model with his early adopters. Everything works this way, so it’s okay if you aren’t closing lots of random people through Google Ad campaigns at first.


    Our team in all out sales mode on Saturday afternoon.


  1. Success only happened because I had a rockstar Startup Weekend Team


    I might have already said this, but Noah is a huge pimp for doing this alone and in 24 hours. Our team was stacked with awesome members that knew how to get stuff done… and quickly. A team of 8 took 44 hours to do what Noah did by himself in 24.  
    If I were to pick out the one thing that I did best for this initiative it was putting together a rockstar team. This is something that I’ve become really good at over the last few years — attracting a solid team and then getting the most out of them. As a business owner and soccer coach I’ve learned a lot over the last decade about recruiting and managing a team. I’ve created a whole course about it here –
    How to Recruit an Awesome Team. The team with the most best players always wins and thanks to my team, we succeeded this weekend.

Here is a log that I kept throughout the 44 hours (Friday 9 pm – Sunday 5 pm):

 $1000 Challenge Log File

New Technology – October 20th – Great Clips Mobile App

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I had a great experience with this app this week.  For those of you that know me well, I really hate wasting time.

On Saturday, I needed a haircut.  So, I booked my appointment through the Great Clips app at the location closest to my office.  It told me the wait time was about 12 minutes.  It was about a 10 minute drive to Great Clips.  As I arrived, the person in front of me gave the clerk his name and she put his name on the list, “It will be about 15-20 minutes”, she said.  I stepped up to the counter and she asked, “Did you check in online?”.  I said, “yes, I did.  My name is Brian.”.  “Great, we’re ready for you right now.”  Sweet!!!  No wait time.

As I walked back I noticed the guy who had a 15 minute wait get on his phone and start downloading the app.

Hawaii Honeymoon Recap

Since a lot of people are asking about our honeymoon to Hawaii, here’s a quick review of the trip.

 

First off, let me give you a few tips if you are traveling to Hawaii.  The two most valuable things I can tell you are:

  1. Rent a Jeep – it’s more expensive, but totally worth it and allows you to do a lot of things you couldn’t without a 4WD vehicle.

  2. Download the “Hawaii Revealed” app for whatever island you are traveling to.  This app will tell you everything you need to know about all the sights, food, and activities on any island.  It’s $8, but you’ve already spend thousands to get to Hawaii, so go ahead and splurge for a pricey app for once.  It didn’t let us down once the entire trip.

A few other tips (all secondary to the two tips above):

  • Bring Chacos – My best friend (and now brother-in-law), Matt Hogg, let me borrow his and they were a lifesaver for hiking, swimming, etc.

  • Bring a car charger – you’ll need your phone a lot if you use the app above.  Plus we used ours for pictures.

  • Ask locals for help – we spent a lot of our trip hanging out in places where locals were.  The app helped us find out about them and get 90% of the way there and then often locals would help us get the rest of the way.

  • You can buy or rent snorkel gear.  We bought it, which is probably cheaper if you go at least 3 times.  However, some places let you rent for a week (not sure on pricing for this option).  Either way, it’s nice to have snorkel gear in your jeep all the time.  You never know when you might want to go exploring for fish.

Here’s what we did each day:

  1. Day 1 (Maui) – Sunday, 6/30:
    Drove to the west shore.  Snorkeled at Honolua Bay (excellent snorkeling with lots of fish and a nice reef. Visited a blowhole called Nakaleae Blowhole.  Snorkeled at Honokeana Cove.  Saw lots of fish and about 10 sea turtles, all different sizes, some as big as us.

  2. Day 2 (Maui) – Monday, 7/1:
    Haleakala sunrise & downhill bike ride.  We had to wake up at 1:30 am to get to our tour bus by 2:30 am for a 4:30 am sunrise.  We used a company called Haleakala Bike Company.  It was about $110 / each.  Not the cheapest option, but we think we scored better gear for it.  Also, it was self guided, which was important to us.
    Nick’s – Probably the best dinner we ate all trip.  Awesome food, awesome atmosphere, awesome service.  Get the flaming strawberries.  

  3. Day 3 (Maui) – Tuesday, 7/2:
    Road to Hana.  Use the app and it will tell you all the good stops.  We got kind of a late start and didn’t leave the hotel until 9:30 am, which meant we didn’t make it to the Road to Hana start (on the northwest side) until 10:30.  Try to make it all the way to Seven Sacred Pools.  It’s near the very end.  If you have a jeep (like I told you to), then you can drive all the way around the island and come back on the east side.  It’s a long drive and takes pretty much the entire day.  Be sure to enjoy the journey and don’t focus on the destination.

  4. Day 4 (Kauai) – Wednesday, 7/3:
    We traveled to Kauai in the morning.  Kind of just hung out at different beaches and visited the Opaeka’a Falls Lookout and the Kamokila Hawaiian Village.  Both were convenient, but not must sees.  We found out that the village offers kayak rental for $35 / person on the Wailua River and is close to Secret Falls.  We didn’t end up kayaking, but would probably use them next time.
    Ate at Gaylord’s.  Pretty good food, plantation style atmosphere.  

  5. Day 5 (Kauai) – Thursday, 7/4:
    Checked out the Waimea Canyons.  I haven’t been to the Grand Canyons, but heard it’s comparable.  Check it out if you’re nearby or if it’s on the way to something.  For us it was on the way to Polihale beach.  This is one of the most exclusive, beautiful beaches on the island.  It’s on the west side of the island.  Really rough rocky road near the end.  Pretty cool adventure just getting to it.  Definitely helps to have 4WD.
    Went to a firework show that night.  Probably would have gone to the Smith Family Luau if it hadn’t been the fourth of July.

  6. Day 6 (Kauai) – Friday, 7/5:
    Hiked the Na Pali coast to Hanakapiai Beach (2 miles) and then up to the Hanakapiai Falls (~1.8 miles).  This is a must do when on Kauai, one of the top rated hikes in the world.  It took us just under 7 hours with stops.  
    Bubba’s Burgers for dinner.  Anything tastes good after a 7 hour hike, but the atmosphere and food is actually pretty good.
    We also stopped by Queen’s Bath in Princeville on the way home.  It was dark and was high tide so we didn’t get in.  But looked cool and worth checking out if you have time.

  7. Day 7 (Kauai) – Saturday, 7/6:
    Drove to the Jungle Hike with an 800 foot tunnel you can tube through.  This drive gets extremely dicey the closer you get to the Jungle Hike.  This was the craziest road I’ve ever driven on and is kind of an adventure in and of itself.  You pretty much have to have 4WD to get through it.  You pass the Jurassic Park entrance (not that exciting in real life – nothing left but two tall wooden poles) about 1.5 miles from the hike start.  The tunnel was awesome and nothing like we’ve ever done before.  It’s kind of like a lazy river (but not that lazy) in the jungle and through a dark tunnel.  Bring a headlight and some glowsticks.  Also, get decent sized inner tubes (adult sized).  Ours were too small and we were fortunate enough to borrow some better ones from some locals.
    We ate at Duke’s Canoe Club that night.  2nd best place we ate all trip.  Great atmosphere and good food.

We loved it…so much that we plan to go back in 2 years!

New Technology – May 5th – 2-step verification

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Google’s 2-step verification adds an extra layer of security to your Google Account.  Why am I concerned about this you might ask? Well, I’ve seen several of my friend’s accounts get hacked recently…and on top of that, two of the smartest people I know said I should – Nick Such and Tommy Crush.

Setting it up is a synch.  It literally took me 3 minutes.  Here’s how it works:

  1. When you sign into your Google account you will enter your password like normal.
  2. Then you’ll be asked to enter a code that will be sent to you via text or voice or mobile app.
  3. Then you’re signed in like normal.  You can set it up so that you are only asked for a code whenever you sign into a new computer.  This is what I did, that way I don’t have to enter a code every time I sign into Google on my own computer.  I’m still covered since most hacks come from people attempting to sign into your account from remote computers.

Here’s the website for info on how to get started.

 

One more thing – don’t forget to setup your “application-specific passwords” for other apps using your Google account such as your phone or Adwords, etc. This took an additional 60 seconds.

New Technology – March 31st – My365

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For about a year now, I’ve been doing a “picture a day” project.  It’s where you take a picture every day and post it to the internet.  Kind of a picture journal of your life.  It was inspired by my friend Luke Murray – you can read about it here.

I had been using Posterous to do this.  But since that service is shutting down, I’ve switched over to My365, an iPhone app designed exactly for this type of project.  It’s actually easier and more convenient than using Posterous for the “picture a day” project.

New Technology – March 17th – Speak Selection

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Speak Selection allows you to select text on your iPhone and then have it read aloud to you. This is great for when you are driving or doing something else and you want to listen to emails, articles or other content. To enable it, go to your settings, go to general, go to accessibility, and select speak selection. Turn it on and select speaking rate.

Here’s a video that shows you exactly how to enable and use it.