Code.Coffee.Cows: Never Talk About Faith and…Startups?

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These are some of my personal thoughts about being a person of faith and hustling in the world of biz/tech.

At the risk of sounding like a postmodern cop-out, I don’t consider myself to be a religious person, yet I am keenly spiritual and take my faith seriously. I was raised Christian and, while I never outright rejected the faith and would be happy to admit to anyone who asked that I was a follower of Jesus, most of my teens and early 20′s I lived as a hypocrite. On the outside, sure, I seemed like I had it all together, but on the inside I was a hollow, prideful soul capitulating to my inner demons.

Various life events, some tragic, led to me go though a time of epiphany and I ended up rededicating my life to Christ. Since then, I have been more conscious of living out my life during the “daily grind” in a way that honors God and is sincere and worthwhile.

Which brings me to the world of startups. I love this world. I’ve worked for them, I’ve been a part of them, I’ve talked about them, and now am increasingly instantiating them. The hustle and bustle, the passion and drive, the cool new stuff that comes on the scene, the ways things get invented and reinvented at a rapid pace — well, I’m simply hooked.

But I sometimes feel a disconnect between this world of business innovation and the inner world of my faith. There’s an ugly side to entrepreneurship. Hubris. Arrogance. Selfishness. Lack of balance and — dare I say it — compassion for others. Even (gasp) greed.

We’ve seen these distasteful qualities in people that are otherwise deeply admirable. No other example is so stark as that of Steve Jobs. I’ve heard it argued by some that his way of verbally wounding others, tearing ideas down, and striking out to prove everyone wrong, was part of his genius — even something to emulate. In other words, be a jerk, because it’s the end result that matters…a gorgeous product of magical invention and elegance.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. As an aside, the death of Jobs last month was profoundly moving to me. I was quite saddened, as I am definitely a huge fan of his work and legacy. Apple’s influence on me over the past decade is immense. Nevertheless, I’ve been haunted by these questions: can I build a great company with outstanding products and still be a “nice guy”? Can I love my neighbor as myself, honor others, look to bless and not discourage, build up and not tear down, and show mercy even to my enemies, as Jesus teaches me — and be a successful entrepreneur at the same time? Can I pursue profits, bottom lines, media accolades, and market dominance — and still live with myself at the end of the day? Do I even need God? Or am I relying solely on my own perceived abilities and merely paying lip service to my faith?

These are the thoughts I wrestle with. And maybe it’s good that I do and that I don’t believe I’ve found any easy answers. That means I Still Care. And caring about how you live your life and what it will all mean on the other side is the first step towards enlightenment. I’m not asking for a pat or simplistic formula to being a Christian business person. I just want to know that I’m doing what I believe is the right thing to do, one day at a time.

My hope is that there is a way to live a life of compassion, serving God and others, maintaining integrity and honesty, and also build a great startup. My prayer is that I’ll find it. Maybe that is all the faith I need.

Jared White is Editor-in-Chief of North Bay Startup. He has worked in the field of technology journalism for over 15 years and headed up several online blogs and media properties before founding NBS. He is also the owner and Creative Director at Siteshine, a digital media agency located in Santa Rosa, CA. You can reach him on Twitter @jaredcwhite.

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Leave a Reply to Jeff 6

  1. Jared – the fact that you think about these things shows in your life / work.

    Leigh Rodriguez on November 29, 2011 as 7:46 am
    • Thank you Leigh. That is very sweet of you. :)

      Jared White on November 29, 2011 as 7:50 am
  2. Very good blog Jared, I can definitely relate to all of that. I struggle every day and similar thoughts go through my mind all the time.

    Dax on December 7, 2011 as 10:39 pm
    • Thanks Dax. And it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s crazy. Ha ha!

      Jared White on December 9, 2011 as 5:06 pm
  3. Jared, what has been your experience in the startup world if faith ever comes up? I’m just getting into this world and seeing all the things you’ve mentioned everywhere…

    Jeff on December 16, 2011 as 11:57 pm
  4. Jared,
    I was connected to this article today, nearly 1 year later because I attended the mixer Wed, looked up Cole’s work, clicked on this website and recognized your name from the mixer intros. Funny where free association can take you on the web. In this case, very pleasantly. I love this article you wrote.

    I would stop here, except I also was reminded of one of the most admirable and wildly successful entrepreneurs I know, who lives his life out as a good and nice guy with loads of integrity. Gary Erickson, founder of Clif Bar. I illustrated his original package and logo (mostly still intact with improvements by his own designers) back when he was a startup in the 90′s. His book is out now, if you would like to read his take: “Raising the Bar.” If he is a Christian, I don’t know, but he is the kind of entrepreneur you describe. Yes you can.

    Lori on August 31, 2012 as 10:21 am
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