30 for 30: 30 Years, 30 Thoughts

D74E02CE-8B92-4CAB-A3B5-D25BA6AD751A

In order to commemorate the three decade milestone, here are 30 lessons I’ve learned during the last 30 years:

  1. Always put God first, others second, and yourself third.
  2. Don’t take people (especially your parents) or things for granted. The older you get, the more you realize just how much you’ve been blessed.
  3. Excellence and perfection are two very different things—excellence is attainable, perfection is not.
  4. Listening is often more valuable than talking.
  5. Manage your money wisely: learn when to spend extra for quality, when to be thrifty, and, most importantly, when to be generous.
  6. Read meaningful books. The stories and knowledge found in them will profit you for a lifetime.
  7. Stick to your convictions, even if they aren’t popular. A clean conscience is more desirable than the crowd’s applause.
  8. Own your mistakes and failures. Learning from them will benefit you in the long run.
  9. Call your Mom. She loves it.
  10. Ground your identity in Christ alone—anything or anyone else is a fickle and superficial substitute.
  11. Learn to say “no”. Your time is valuable, so do your best to use it for things that matter.
  12. Never stop learning. You may have finished school, but that shouldn’t be the end of your education.
  13. There’s no such thing as too much Chick-fil-A.
  14. Make time for rest, recreation, reflection, and solitude.
  15. Have an idea of what you’d like to accomplish, achieve, or experience in the next 5-10 years. This will give direction to the decisions you make today.
  16. Being a member of a healthy local church is a true joy.
  17. Bitterness can consume you if you let it; forgiveness is a much better option.
  18. If possible, go see the world. Exploring new places and experiencing different cultures will make your life richer.
  19. Your Dad is a fountain of wisdom—soak it up.
  20. There are seasons in the Christian life when it’s best to read through the entire Bible in a year and other seasons when it’s best to dive deeper into a section and dwell on the richness found within it.
  21. Asking a good question usually takes much more skill than making a good statement.
  22. Your integrity and reputation are the most important assets you have—make every effort to remain above reproach.
  23. Go outside: a little bit of fresh air and natural beauty goes a long way towards relaxing, clearing your mind, and stimulating new ideas.
  24. Having a brother who is also a stalwart friend is a true blessing.
  25. Inter-generational discipleship is a beautiful thing: hearing the triumphs and trials of others gives you a different perspective on your triumphs and trials.
  26. Look up from your phone and take in your surroundings. I guarantee people-watching is much more entertaining.
  27. Innovation is often messy—don’t let that stop you from taking the initiative to try something new.
  28. Spend time with kids. They don’t care about your profession, possessions, or popularity: what matters to them is that you show up and show that you care.
  29. Learn when to do something yourself and when to hire a professional.
  30. Puns are the most refined form of humor.

What are some lessons you’ve learned so far during your life’s journey?

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

Lessons from Three Years as an Entrepreneur

Agricultural Food Systems has now been in business for three years!

It’s been an interesting year for AFS: we completely redesigned the TenderID prototype, took part in another round of testing with the USDA, continued fine-tuning our technology, and were featured on CNNMoney’s website with fellow John Brown University alumni businesses James+James and Craftistas.

Any entrepreneurial journey must be one marked by constant learning. Sometimes this learning comes through success, other times it comes through hardship and failure. As Winston Churchill put it,I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” In other words, every situation presents an opportunity to grow. During my first year running AFS, I learned the importance of thinking strategically, constantly moving forward, and staying humble. The second year as an entrepreneur taught me to not let my identity be defined by my work, the benefits of delaying gratification, and how collaboration is an integral part of innovation. Those six themes were prevalent again this year as we continued to move forward with our R&D. Here are three additional lessons I learned this year:     Read more of this post

6 Tips for Empowering Employees

DSC_5896

Once or twice a month, I go to Waffle House with Chad Mann, the youth pastor at Harvard Avenue Baptist, after the Wednesday night service. I always get a chocolate chip waffle. Chad orders a bacon, chicken, and cheese wrap with ranch dressing. Last week, they didn’t have any ranch dressing. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but here’s how the conversation with our waitress went:

CHAD: Can I get a bacon, chicken, and cheese wrap with a packet of ranch dressing please?

WAITRESS: We don’t have any ranch dressing.

CHAD: Bummer. You didn’t have it last time I was here either.

WAITRESS: Yea, we haven’t had any for a few weeks. Our manager is on vacation, so we haven’t ordered any.

ME: Couldn’t one of you all just run over to Walmart and get some so customers can have ranch on their wraps and salads? (This particular Waffle House is in the parking lot of the Siloam Walmart)

WAITRESS: I guess so, but the manager isn’t here, so we don’t know if that’s ok. He always makes us ask for permission to do stuff like that. Plus, it’s getting cold outside.

CHAD: That’s fine. I’ll use salsa instead.

Fear-Driven Management

Why do I share this example? It highlights the problems that result when employees don’t feel empowered by their managers. Read more of this post

Lessons from Two Years as an Entrepreneur

Agricultural Food Systems, a company three friends and I started after graduating from John Brown University, celebrated its two year anniversary of incorporation yesterday!

Last year, I shared three lessons I learned during my first year as an entrepreneur. Since last May, AFS participated in the first cohort of the ARK Challenge, began testing of the TenderID in conjunction with the USDA, and was featured in Bloomberg Businessweek and Arkansas Business (article 1 || article 2).

As I’ve continued on my entrepreneurial journey, one of my personal mantras has been “never stop learning.” If for some reason AFS doesn’t work out (which hopefully won’t happen) and I learn nothing in the process, then the whole experience has been wasted. However, if it fails and I have some valuable takeaways, then it was a worthwhile (though costly) endeavor. As Winston Churchill said, “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”

That being said, here are three lessons I’ve learned in the past year: Read more of this post

Innovate or Die

Innovation

“America demands invention and innovation to succeed.” -Kit Bond

Blockbuster. Research in Motion (Blackberry). Borders. AOL. Palm.

What do these companies have in common? They used to be on the leaders in their respective industries, but are now either bankrupt or on the way out. The cause of their slow slides into irrelevancy is their failure to innovate after they hit it big. Their stagnation prevented them from adapting to meet the changing demands of their clientele, provoking their customers to leave them for their more agile competitors. Companies that fail to innovate should rightly be allowed to go out of business.  Read more of this post

Make it Happen!

Have you ever seen a product and thought to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

This happens to me on a pretty regular basis. I’ll be watching Shark Tank or browsing Amazon and I’ll see a great innovation that fills an obvious need (and is usually shockingly simple) and ask myself that very question: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Along the same line of thought, two of the founders of Field Agent recently spoke to the participants of the ARK Challenge startup accelerator that Agricultural Food Systems was recently accepted into. One of the things that they pointed out was at the end of the day, no one wants to look back and see someone else commercialize an idea that they originally had and have to say “I had that idea” without ever taking action on it. Their advice to entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and innovators: “Make it happen!”  Read more of this post

AFS at the 2011 Donald W. Reynolds Arkansas Governor’s Cup

The AFS management team with awards from the 2011 Donald W. Reynolds Arkansas Governor's Cup

Last Wednesday (4/20), the Agricultural Food Systems team (JD Andrade, Kirk Dennison, Lauren Kessler-Morriss, and myself) from John Brown University traveled down to Little Rock with the other two JBU teams, GardenCraft and Craftistas, for the 11th annual Donald W. Reynolds Arkansas Governor’s Cup awards luncheon. The Governor’s Cup is a business plan competition for undergraduate and graduate students in the state of Arkansas sponsored by the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation. Fifty undergraduate teams from colleges and universities all over Arkansas submitted plans for this year’s competition, of which twelve made it into the semi-finals and six made the finals. 

 

Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: