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What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?

You think it’s R, but it be the C.

Three Things I Learned from Chris Lema

food1I had a great opportunity to spend time with Chris Lema and Josh Eaton the other night.  We had some of the most fantastic food I’ve enjoyed in awhile at this fabulous restaurant called Urban Farmer.  If you’re ever in Portland and have the chance to go, I’d highly recommend it – everything was exquisite.

It was a real treat to meet Josh – he and I are in very similar places in life.  20-something  WordPress developers with young families, working hard and doing well.  Josh has accomplished some incredibly fascinating things over the last few years – he and his wife blog about it at Traveling 9 to 5.  tl;dr – they got a free Galapagos cruise!   Ridiculous.  He has also spent some time recently becoming a bit more active on the WP e-Commerce GitHub issue tracker, so it’s been great to get to know him at the development level.  He’s a smart developer and he’s working with Andrew Norcross at Reaktiv Studios – fantastic guys who I can’t recommend highly enough.

That all said – spending time with these guys further cemented a realization I’ve had about myself:

Folks like us are not normal.  

“Us”, in this case, includes many of you reading this.  Spending the time it takes to work hard, build businesses, work in the trenches doing the hard yards of entrepreneurship – that’s frankly rare.  It’s the reality of life for Josh and myself, and it’s Chris’ reality as well.  Spending time with a guy like Chris – who is doing what we’re doing, except he’s been doing it for 20+ years – was a phenomenally valuable time of learning and gleaning.  And it wasn’t just valuable because he picked up the check. :)

Here’s what I learned (Disclaimer: after reading this post, you’ll think I’ve fallen in love with Chris Lema.  Almost, but I’m happily married.  I learned a lot in a short amount of time with him – this post, like all my posts, is primarily for myself, so I don’t forget lessons learned.):

Doing > Talking

We had some really interesting conversations about the freelance life, different victories and challenges we face alongside our colleagues.  One of the primary pain points we recognized is health care – freelancers, in general, either have no health care coverage or minimal coverage.  Speaking for me personally – I have great health care on my wife and kids, but nothing on myself.  There are simply too few options that make the right amount of sense.  It would be easy to sit and complain about how annoying that is, blame Obama, blame Republicans, blame Chris Lema. It’s easy to play the blame game when you have limited vision and feel the problem is insurmountable and you’re condemned to the status quo.

That’s not what Chris did.  Instead, one of the first statements out of his mouth was, “Hmm, I think I know a guy.  Let me see what I can do.”

He wasn’t saying, “Oh, I have a great agent, let me grab you his number.

And he certainly wasn’t saying, “Yeah, that sucks for freelancers.  Bummer.

What he was actually doing is way better than that.  He recognized a systemic problem that affects a lot of people.  He decided to put on his thinking cap and put feet to the problem. I don’t know what the end result will be, the problem has only been stewing in that magic space between his ears for a few days – but I won’t be surprised at all if something incredibly interesting and beneficial comes from  this conversation.  In large part, that’s because Chris recognizes that doing is better than talking – he is, after all, the done done guy.  Him deciding to simply “see what he could do” inspired me to take a look at the things I simply talk about, and see instead what I can do about them.

Giving > Getting

Want in on a little secret?  There are few things more fun in life than being extravagantly generous.  I can’t imagine any greater reward for generating obscene amounts of wealth than the joy of giving it all away.  I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were born to be generous people.  All of us, you included. Chris is a brilliant example of this.  As I mentioned, naturally, he picked up the check.  It wasn’t a small check, I promise you.  Less than four digits, more than three.  But that’s not even the primary example of Chris being a generous dude.

He has a generous spirit.  Do you know how refreshing and rare it is that you can go out to dinner with a business executive-type person, period?  Not common, unless you yourself are also a business executive.  Time is the most precious resource you or I can offer someone; and Chris is beyond generous with his.  #boom.

Also, say you do find yourself in a dinner meeting like that.  Do you realize how uncommon it is that these types of people speak kindly and with great love about everyone that might come up in discussion?  There wasn’t a single negative comment about anyone that came out of Chris’ mouth.  Most notably, his wife.  It is maddeningly common in these types of meetings to have spouses referred to with disdain, annoyance, or worse.  It was refreshing for Chris’ love for his wife to be unmistakably and irrevocably obvious.  That, for me, is the definition of generosity; it’s not about writing a big check, it’s about authentically sharing your heart with people.


Lastly, Chris is a man who is nothing if not consistent.  I’m not entirely sure how long he’s been blogging daily for, but it feels like a long time.  He’ll be the first to tell you (in a long line of others) that consistent blogging with valuable content is a huge key to having a great blog that gets the results you want.  But that’s easy, anyone can write a valuable article with interesting, engaging content, every day.

No, what’s impressive about Chris Lema’s level of consistency isn’t what he’s been doing on a blog over the last year or two – it’s what he has been doing over the past decade or two.  In a few brief hours with him, it was easily discernable that his current state in life (which is pretty awesome, by all accounts) is a direct result of making smart decisions – small decisions – every day, consistently.  Like a good investment vehicle, investment in wise decision-making compounds exponentially over time.  To see where he’s been makes one incredibly excited to envision where he’s going.  Beyond that, it give me confidence in my current direction and the decisions I am making, as well as giving me a glimpse of what 20 years from now might look like.

So – Josh and Chris – thank you guys both for a fantastic evening.  Great food and conversation, and obviously, I learned a lot.

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