Posts in “Logos”

October 30, 2014


A series on the Faithlife core values: Honesty. Openness. Awesomeness. Growth. Initiative. Elegance. Shipping.

We spend a lot of years preparing to be ‘all grown-up.’ Childhood is focused on learning and growth and experiences in preparation for becoming ‘an adult.’

The artificial milestones of graduation ceremonies and significant birthdays at 18 and 21 only serve to reinforce the bright-line distinction between ‘growing child’ and ‘grown-up adult.’

And all too often there is a huge distinction. After two decades of constant growth and learning, some people pass a milestone like graduation and immediately transition into a completely different life as an adult: they not only stop growing physically, they stop growing intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally as well.

Why? Why would people spend 20 years in constant growth and learning and then stop suddenly?

Because growth hurts. It hurts our minds, like how you felt your brain was being physically stretched as you tried to master a new type of math or science. It hurts our bodies, like when you fell while learning to ride a bicycle or breathed-in water while learning to swim. And it hurts our pride, like when you were laughed at while struggling with a foreign language or learning a new sport. We all suffered trauma in our childhood that shaped who we are today. We jokingly call much of that trauma ‘a learning experience’, but the strongest lesson taught is ‘avoid that pain.’

As children, we can’t avoid the pain of growth: parents, teachers, and the world-at-large all conspired to force us through an endless gauntlet of painful learning experiences. Until suddenly, one day, we walk across a stage and are handed a diploma and freedom, and realize that no one is going to daily force us through uncomfortable growth experiences any more.

And so we seek comfortable positions, in our lives and careers, where we know the rules, can get along easily, and can generally minimize the pain and embarrassment of learning new things.

And that is okay.

You don’t have to learn everything. In school you have to learn what someone else decides is important. In life you can choose what you want to learn, and can even choose to quit a job that would require an uncomfortable amount of growth.

I have chosen not to learn another language. I took a language in high school; I tried to learn a few on my own. But I was unwilling to put in the effort and pay the price in time and discomfort. So one day I explicitly chose to take it off my list of goals.

I did choose, intentionally, to learn to appreciate as many ethnic cuisines as possible. I’ve repeatedly eaten some unappetizing things. I’ve developed a taste for things I once found disgusting. But I have chosen to draw the line at insects: I am confident I could learn to appreciate the grilled skewers of insects in the Chinese food market, but I don’t want to suffer the discomfort of getting there; I don’t value the resulting growth enough.

All our fears about learning and growing are true: It does hurt. It does take time. It is uncomfortable.

But there are great rewards for suffering the pain: A sense of accomplishment. Recognition and respect from others. Enjoyable experiences. Richer relationships. Better financial compensation. Superior skills and abilities.

I travel a lot, and I know that speaking only English means that I am missing out on some great experiences. My business and personal relationships with people in other countries are not as rich as they could be. But in light of what my business is, where my travels are, and what I enjoy, I am okay with that trade-off.

I do, however, want to lead a business. From early on I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And I didn’t know how to do it. And I saw that it required skills I didn’t have. And I realized that business is something that is constantly changing, and that leading a business would require not just mastering a fixed set of skills, but continually learning and trying new things over and over. And I signed up for the hard work and the pain.

I still read and study. I attend educational events. I take factory tours, interview other business people, and force myself to grow through uncomfortable experiences like learning to speak in front of a crowd and to ask for a sale – things I was terribly afraid of at the start.

Growth is not a job requirement in many jobs. Many businesses want employees to do what they’re told, and to do it exactly the same way every day. They value consistency over creativity, and need only a small number of growth-minded individuals to staff occasional openings in management.

Faithlife is not one of those businesses. We value growth, and we are constantly growing as an organization. We need growth-minded people every day. We don’t have a business where consistency is more valuable than creativity.

McDonald’s wants the same fry, cooked the same way, with the same potatoes, every day, everywhere, forever. Faithlife is a technology business; we need to be improving constantly.

I could extol the benefits of growth in general – it really is great to enjoy a dozen exotic cuisines! Learning another language opens up a new world of experiences and friendships! But the growth that Faithlife needs and expects from you is specifically related to our business.

Faithlife is a growing business in a changing market. Next year we will need different skills than we need this year. We will need competency with tools and technologies that may not even exist yet. We will need people who understand our customers, products, and company and can lead others. We will need new ideas for products and services to offer our customers, and we will need new customers.

I hope you are one of the people who will be able to help us grow and continue to do excellent work at the next level.

Are you?

Are you growing? Are you learning new things? Are you developing new skills?

Most importantly, are you uncomfortable? Because that’s the real sign that you are growing. And once you understand that the discomfort is a normal, natural part of growing you can learn to embrace it. You know that it’s uncomfortable when you try to do or learn something new, and you know the discomfort goes away once you master the new thing. Then you can seek out a new level of discomfort in another area of incompetence, knowing that the satisfaction and relief of competence is sure to follow. It’s a virtuous set of stair-steps up towards higher knowledge and competency – and, in the workplace, promotions, advancement, and better compensation.

How to Grow at Faithlife

  1. Are you reading a book a month? If not, your career prospects are dimming. Top leaders average at least a book a week. (Seriously. See and
  2. Write an email or blog post in which you teach something. You’ll learn, too. (That’s one reason I write these commentaries on our values.)
  3. Ask “How did you do that?” Ask how they made the sauce. Ask for a tour of the factory. Ask “Why?”

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Thank you for investing so much of your time and career here at Faithlife. Let’s keep growing together.

(See also:

October 28, 2014


A series on the Faithlife core values: Honesty. Openness. Awesomeness. Growth. Initiative. Elegance. Shipping.

It doesn’t matter how great something is if no one is using it.

We get paid when we deliver value to our customers. At the start, our idea -> implementation -> delivery loop was very short. We had an idea, we implemented it, shipped it, and got paid. Then we took the next idea and implemented it and shipped it, too.

Not only did we turn ideas into cash quickly, we rarely shipped a feature that wasn’t useful, we rarely wrote code that didn’t get used, and we were rarely beat to a new opportunity by a competitor. We had a tight feedback loop and could hear our customers clearly.

As the company grew the loop got longer and longer. The product was more complicated. We had bigger ideas we wanted to implement. We tried to anticipate needs, not respond to them. We had enough cash to take the time to do things right the first time.

This is a natural consequence of growth. And there are good things about it, and bad.

The danger is when your idea -> implementation -> delivery loop grows so long that you never complete the loop. You can discuss and meet and think about an idea so long that it never moves to implementation. Ideas that do make it to implementation can die there as they are tweaked, refined, improved, and perfected.

Companies can, and do, invest a lot of time and energy in things which are never delivered to a single customer.

And along the way there’s a danger of trading your external focus (on customers) for internal focus (on process/politics/co-workers). A short loop lets your customers tell you how good your ideas and implementation are right-away. A long loop involves a lot of investment without feedback.

Is there a danger of shipping junk quickly and damaging your relationship with your customers? Yes. There should be a minimum standard of quality. We value Awesomeness and Elegance, too. But an organization with a short loop can fix problems quickly. An organization with a long loop will suffer even more from mistakes.

How do you know when to ship something?

It can be hard to know. It takes judgment and experience, and even then it’s still a guess. There are some questions you can use to help you decide, though.

Are we trying to make this perfect? Perfect is the enemy of good. We don’t need it perfect, we need it shipped. Then we can get feedback, improve it, and ship again.

Can we split this project into phases? Are there obvious levels or stages or break-points in this project that would let us ship it in useful, but smaller, pieces? We can start shipping a commentary series with just Philippians, instead of waiting until the whole Bible is complete. Are there even smaller units? Could we start with just the most commonly preached pericopes in Philippians?

Can we test it manually? Is there a way to test the assumptions of the project using a much smaller implementation before investing in a complete one? (The first Logos Pre-Pub was administered manually, with no special code. Community Pricing was introduced and tested using Survey Monkey instead of The first payment plans were managed in paper file-folders long before automation was introduced. We proved the concepts before investing in implementation.)

Can we change this easily if we need to? Some decisions will be costly to change later (choosing your accounting system, hiring the right person, picking the coding language) and are worth taking the time to get right. But many decisions in design and implementation can be changed easily; don’t let those get in the way of shipping.

Is this the Minimum Viable Product? “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” The MVP is more important at start-up then during the incremental improvement phase, but it’s a useful concept to understand and keep in mind even as we incrementally improve our products.

When I first started playing with computers I experimented with software and hardware. I had a soldering iron, built circuits, and hoped to assemble my own computer. But I quickly learned that not only did I need parts to build things, but a mistake with a soldering iron could break a part in an expensive way. Software mistakes, on the other hand, were relatively painless — I just changed the code on the screen.

There’s a reason we are in the software business. It’s well-suited to short loops, quick tests, and shipping incrementally. Especially now, with automatically downloading updates and web-based products.

Let’s get stuff out the door, so we can live to ship again.

October 26, 2014


A series on the Faithlife core values: Honesty. Openness. Awesomeness. Growth. Initiative. Elegance. Shipping.

We live in world of quality products. Where it is unusual to repair a product, because products either rarely fail, or are so cheap that when they do we simply purchase a newer, better model for less than the cost of repair.

Every business aims to provide excellent service. A 60-cent candy bar has a toll-free customer service number on the wrapper, and a call will ensure a complete refund of your expenditure and an apology for the inconvenience.

Today, doing a good job, building a quality product, and serving customers well aren’t things that set a business apart. These things are the norm.

Awesomeness still stands out.

  • When a product has a surprisingly useful or fun feature, that’s awesome.
  • When someone exceeds your expectations in service, that’s awesome.
  • When you’re surprised by something delightful, that’s awesome.

It’s awesome if it’s something people would tell other people about. It’s awesome if it makes people say “That’s awesome!”

It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It doesn’t have to be consistent.

Just awesome.

It’s hard to be consistently awesome. It takes hard work and creativity. Sure, you could throw money at the problem, or build elaborate checklists and flow charts, and turn some mundane things into awesome things. But the best awesomeness is a surprise.

Our customers would find it awesome to discover a $100 bill in their new software package as an ‘instant refund.’ If every package had one, though, people would soon wonder why we didn’t just lower prices and reduce complexity. If it were routine, it would lose its awesomeness.

How can we be more awesome?

Go beyond what’s required once in a while. If a customer has a problem we can address with a $50 credit, give them a $70 credit. Not every time. Not every customer. Just once in a while. Because it’s awesome when you get more than you deserve.

Actually listen to people. So many people call or write with a story about why they need us to break a rule, not apply a policy, or make a special exception. It’s easy to receive this on auto-pilot, and hold to the rules. And we need to. Except sometimes we shouldn’t. Because it’s awesome when someone overrules a policy to help you.

Surprise someone. Send a thank you note after a routine transaction. Include a tiny gift in a shipment. Implement a feature that’s fun and delights people.

Is there a part of our business, product, or service that isn’t awesome? Put together your own ‘awesome brainstorming team’ and come up with some awesome ideas on how to fix it.

Is there a way we could be more awesome for our customers? Suggest it.

It’s hard to be awesome all the time. But it’s one of our core values – and one of the things that will keep our customers happy, returning, and telling others about us.

August 11, 2014

What we value at Logos

A recent email to the company…

There is nothing at Logos more important than our corporate values:

Honesty. Openness. Awesomeness. Growth. Initiative. Elegance. Shipping.

These values reflect what we want to be as an organization. They help us decide what to do today and next year. They answer both ‘how?’ and ‘why?’

I love being part of this organization. I enjoy explaining our values and get a thrill out of seeing us live up to them in big dramatic moments when people wonder if we’ll stick to them and in small, simple ways every day. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be a leader here.

Unfortunately, as organizations grow the distance between people increases. If you joined Logos in the first few years, you were probably older than me and there’s a good chance I helped you move. If you joined this year, we may not have even met yet, and I may be mysterious and remote to you.

And the bigger we get, the harder it is to do something about that. But I want to do what I can to fight that sense of hierarchy and distance. I want everyone here to be on the same page, living the same values, working towards the same ends. And I want to be part of that daily work with you.

So here is what you need to understand about me:

I care about the work. The work is what we are doing every day as we live out our values. The work is what our values enable and it is the fruit of our labor. I want the company to produce excellent work we can all be proud of, and I want us to get it out into the world where it can be useful to people.

And, at a personal level, I simply delight in excellent work: a perfect turn of phrase, an elegant bit of code, a beautiful design, a prospect turned customer and a customer turned raving-fan. It’s fun to see these things!

It doesn’t matter who creates it: when the company does excellent work we all win.

I don’t care about status or rank or credentials – mine or yours. No qualification guarantees that all your work is excellent, and no lack of qualification prevents someone from being able to recognize or create good work.

So it matters a lot that our work is done within the context of our values.

I love to see great work at Logos. (Awesomeness. Initiative. Elegance. Shipping.) I will also call out bad work at Logos. (Honesty. Openness. Growth.) And I expect the same from you. Do I like to have my work criticized? No. Do I take it personally when people tell me something I worked hard on wasn’t that great? Yes. But as painful as honest criticism is, it would be far worse to never get it. Without the honest criticism that leads to better work, I might never hear (and could certainly never trust) the praise that great work earns.

Sometimes we might disagree on what is and isn’t good work. Sometimes we may disagree about how much more effort should go into something before it ships. As CEO I have ultimate decision rights, and sometimes you’ll hear me exercise those rights.

But I want you to know that you work at a company where doing good work is the ultimate power. To know that a good idea is valued more than a job title. To know that honest criticism is about the work, never about the person, and that it’s your right – and duty – to provide that work-focused criticism to your supervisors and co-workers as much as to those who report to you.

If you are living our values and doing great work, you are doing all I could ask of you and more.

And when your work falls short, as mine so often does, you can expect to hear about it. And you can know that the feedback is about the work, not about you, and is delivered in the spirit of our values. Just like the painful and incredibly useful feedback I got on the first draft of this email from one of your co-workers. This is a better email because of it.

You are here because we chose to work with you. You were hired because you do good work and have the potential to grow and improve and do even better work in the future. Live the values in confidence.

Thank you for being part of this team with me.

July 17, 2014

What is love?

No matter how familiar the passage, I never tire of seeing and hearing it another way. This video by the amazing Fred Sprinkle is the latest, and one of the best. (Click the image to see the full video!)

Love Bears All Things

Love Bears All Things

March 13, 2013

“What if Michael Bay did our developer recruiting video?!”

The action-packed, explosive-laden trailer faded from the screen, and the developer next to me joked “That’s what our developer recruiting video should look like!”

It seemed like a great idea, so we brought it up with the filmmaking-types in the design department. “We need something awesome! Explosions! Police cars, ambulances!”

I guess they didn’t have the budget for all that. But I’m pretty happy with what they did come up with.

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