Candid Coffee Talk

What would we learn about each other if we set aside the formalities, grabbed a cup of coffee, and enjoyed a long conversation? As a kid, from sunrise to seven, our dining room turned into the country coffee shop. Farmers gathered, talked about their joys and fears, celebrated or complained about the weather, made fun of the new neighbor’s crooked rows (this pre-dates the modern tech that avoids such embarrassment), asked for and offered advice, debated just about anything (with humor and respect), and they practiced not taking themselves too seriously. Clean bibs soon to be tainted with soil and sweat. Honest. Vulnerable. Humble. Playful. Authentic.

That is what I have to offer on this page. Here you will find my candid, rough draft, fragmented goals, questions, likes, dislikes, and musings—sometimes serious and other times far from it. Enjoy!

If you were going to design a dream decade of life for your 50s, and/or 60s, what would it look like? Don’t limit yourself.

  • Possibility one is doing what I’m doing now as a University president; but doing it with greater fidelity, incredible impact, inspiring and mission-minded initiatives, an amazing sense of teamwork, and a billion-dollar endowment underwriting everything. I would simultaneously enjoy ample time with my family, lifelong learning, regularly publishing valued and quality books and creativity works (1-2 a year), and regularly accomplishing feats of fitness and health.
  • Possibility two would be part of option one, but amplified. It would include an amazing quantity and quality of time with my family; voracious reading and independent research; publishing 2-4 new books and/or creative works each year that are high quality, valued, and sought after; limited consulting for a couple of high-impact organizations each year; serving on one high-impact non-profit board; serving on a high-impact for-benefit for-profit board; having a writing column for a respected media source or think tank; and enjoying a life of health and fitness quests.
  • Possibility three would also include quality and quantity time with family, ample lifelong learning, fitness and health quests, still time for writing and creative work that is valued and sought after, and I would be a philanthropist who supported, amplified and expanded the reach and impact of Christian education through grants from a billion dollar plus endowment. No capital projects. Only investing in people, projects, and programs with promise. As part of the philanthropy, I would host a highly selective, world-class fellowship that equips and raises up the next generation of Christian scholars, leaders, and innovators.

What are your favorite places in the US?

  • Anywhere along the coast of Maine
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Jekyll Island, Georgia
  • Savanah, Georgia
  • Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (memories working at a summer camp during college)
  • Panama City Beach, Florida (mostly because of childhood memories)
  • Mequon, Wisconsin
  • Seward, Nebraska

What are your favorite types of food?

  • BBQ
  • Middle Eastern dishes like schwarma
  • Seafood, especially charbroiled octopus, charbroiled oysters, and lobster
  • Many different Thai dishes
  • High-protein fruit smoothies

What are some of the books that you have read 5 or more times?

  • The Bible
  • On the Incarnation by Athanasius
  • Ben Franklin’s Autobiography
  • Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Josephus
  • In the Fullness of Time
  • Eusebius
  • God at Work by Veith
  • Luther on Vocation by Wingren
  • Holy Sweat by Tim Hansel
  • The Universe Next Door by James Sire
  • Johnny Pie and the Fool Killer by Stephen Vincent Benet
  • The Book of Concord
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory
  • Will Our Children Have Faith by John Westerhoff
  • History and Christianity by John Warwick Montgomery
  • The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
  • The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • The Innovator’s Hypothesis by Michael Schrage
  • Technopoly by Neil Postman
  • Self-Directed Learning by Malcolm Knowles
  • Faust by Goethe
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  • Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
  • The Prince by Michieavelli
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
  • Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
  • How Should We Then Live by Francis Shaeffer
  • Loving God with All Your Mind by J.P Moreland

What are your proudest accomplishments so far in life?

  • Marrying an incredible woman and going through the joys and challenges of our life together.
  • Watching my two children grow up into the people that God intends for them to be.
  • Stepping far out of my comfort zone to help give Goddard College a fighting chance for the future, and learning more about living and loving across difference while striving to be faithful to my own convictions.
  • Seeing some of my past students go on to flourish and be a blessing to others.
  • Helping to design, create, and launch a number of “first-of-their-kind” academic programs that also offer inspiration for a next generation of mission-minded innovators.
  • Creating various models/frameworks that help people see things more clearly, surface and pursue new possibilities, and/or work through ideological ruts.
  • Hearing from individuals about how something that I wrote (article, book, blog post) helped them with part of their next step in life, leadership, learning, and/or service.

What are your greatest disappointments or regrets so far in life?

  • Failing to keep certain promises over the years, even when some may have seemed beyond my control.
  • Relational missteps. My default is to live in a world of ideas, designs, and concepts much of the time, even as I care a great deal about others and often find myself in roles where it is important for me to have strong relational skills, know and remember names and details about others, take initiative to reach out, follow through on communication, spend lots of informal time with others, etc. Some of my regrets are moments when I failed to do some of these things for others.
  • Not succeeding in helping people let go of destructive patterns of thought and habits that were preventing them from incredible possibilities for their future or for experiencing the joys and successes of where we were going as a team.
  • Not spending more time having faith conversations with my children when they were younger. In general, not spending more time with my family in the past.
  • Running into physical fitness or wellness roadblocks that I have yet to overcome.
  • Whatever I did in my earlier years to create the tinnitus that I now live with daily.
  • Losing the key for my early purchase of Bitcoin.

What are your favorite TV shows?

  • MacGyver (the newer one)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Eureka
  • The Librarian / Librarians
  • Chuck
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Warehouse 13
  • Merlin

What are your favorite beverages?

  • Club soda with lime
  • Carbonated water
  • Decaf coffee
  • Decaf herbal tea
  • Water
  • I do not drink anything else.

Introvert or extrovert?

  • I’m an awkward extrovert, but seem to be moving more toward introvert every year.

What are some of your dreams that you and/or most others deem impossible, unreasonable, or delusion (not necessarily goals)?

  • Give away $1,000,000,000+ before I die in ways that amplify the causes that are important to me and that I am convinced can be an immense blessing to others.
  • Publish a book or creative work that reaches 100,000,000 or more people.
  • Launch and sustain a Christian equivalent of the Center for Advanced Studies, creating a one-of-a-kind, world-class scholarly community that fully funds and supports 100 of the best Christian scholars of this generation whose work is having a widespread and global impact.
  • Launch a new high-demand Christian university (or higher education community). It is staffed with world-class, Christ-centered professors/scholars whose research, teaching, and scholarship is meeting a largely unmet need while having a widespread, even global, impact. The university is also ranked in top 25 best universities in the world.