I did not know what I wanted to do for a living when I was 24 or 25 or 26 or… when I was 35 when I started my company and only did so reluctantly. I couldn’t find another company that I agreed with in how they handled matters (compensation, integrity, my agenda*), so I was talked into starting my own company. The guy that talked me into it was going to be my 50/50 partner, but at the very end, he backed out. That scared me and I almost bagged on the whole thing. I had a wife, 3 children, a mortgage and all the responsibilities of life.  I wasn’t sure if I had it in me when it came to “go time”. I thought about it and decided that I could only fall so far.  But something else was manifesting in my life. For me, this is a subtle description and may sound strongly similar to a church message – I began to find faith.

My church experience with the use of the word “faith” has been in reference to one’s beliefs,  “I have my Faith” or the leap one takes when the outcome of an event is uncertain, “You gotta have faith” (i.e. believe it’s going to work out). Those two thoughts seem too passive to me. Those ideas have coincided with a slightly more victimizing idea “God will provide”. Maybe it’s my arrogance and ignorance (likely), but it seems to me that our purpose on this planet is neither to be independent of God’s influence nor solely dependent on it. Rather, I believe there is a dynamic element that requires our full and active participation, but also a realization that we can’t control (much of any) outcomes. Therefore, I began my company with the notion that I would put forth as much effort as I could to win the economic day, but I wouldn’t worry too much about the outcome. I would then assume that good or bad, the outcome was valuable for my development. Keep the end in mind.

So what has happened over the following 25 years to support or detract from that theory? In ‘98 the State of Colorado investigated a complaint that I was paying salespeople as independent contractors (1099). I was. They sued. I won. In ‘99, the IRS audited me due to a referral from the State of Colorado on the 1099 issue. I faced certain bankruptcy. My partners wanted to switch to W-2. This was an pressure-filled time. The outcome was seriously in doubt. The fork in the road to switch or not was fraught with painfully poor choices. But in the end, I decided that my wife loved me, my kids were healthy and loved me, I wasn’t facing a life or death choice just a future decision about car quality (in other words, it was a purely economic problem). And most importantly, I gave the outcome up to God (that sounds very churchy, but that’s all I had left in my bag). I was engaged, certainly, but focused more on my actions in the moment rather than worrying that reality was going to crush me. In other words, I remained light on worry.

Regarding the God prayer thing, I did engage every night in that quandary. Should my prayers be “Your Will be done” or “Hey Lord, please bless my desired outcome”?  In the end, I settled on “Um… God?  If you are taking into account my desires, I don’t want to be unclear here. I choose that my company succeed in this issue…Just so you know where I stand on this.  Amen.” Not super spiritual, but true nonetheless.

I told my partners (since I was majority shareholder) that we would live or die with the business model we had. Much to their immediate chagrin, we pressed on. They were much older than me, so they wouldn’t have time to recover if we lost. But, thank God, and I do, we won.  In fact, when we were sued on the same issue by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) a couple years later, we had the IRS victory to bolster us in yet another win. So the IRS victory was huge – huh, no kidding.

Is there a difference between “having faith” when the outcome of a big event is uncertain and “acting in faith” as I’ve tried to describe? I don’t know. For me it’s been about ownership vs victimization. Every aspect of my messages in these Letters to you is about full engagement in one’s life, particularly your mental/spiritual life and learning about what God might be saying to you through circumstances. As you put forth your effort as a salaried employee, commissioned sales, or entrepreneur, you will always act to some degree in faith that your efforts will be rewarded. I believe that the more you engage God in the equation without foregoing your own responsibility in the input, you’ll see a positive result. Moreover, this belief is like a muscle, it gets stronger as you commit to it and exercise it.

To your actions in faith,

Dave Marr

* Agenda: When working for some other guy, it’s his prime objective to make money.  Maybe not solely make money, but it’s usually number one on the list.  However, it’s not uncommon for that employer to have an attitude that is not inclusive of my goals as an employee. It’s their agenda or nothing. All good as long as everyone is clear. However, I don’t think that employers should consume employees (time, passion, etc.) or abuse employees in the pursuit of their agenda as I have seen often.

Dave Marr

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