Confessions of a Former Homophobe: Same Love

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“They call us ‘Homophobic’! I ain’t scared of no queers! They are the ones going to hell! They should be scared!” That was the line shouted by my red-faced, Independent Baptist pastor from behind his sacred pulpit nearly fifteen years ago…

Let me first back up even more to my childhood. Born in 1977, I was primarily raised during the 80’s. It was a time when there were no obviously gay characters on regular TV and “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straights had the lyric “that little faggot with the earring and the make-up” playing on the radio. The 1980’s saw the end of the golden age for those who wanted a primarily gay-free pop culture. Outside of the correlation made between the outbreak of HIV/AIDS and homosexuality, I don’t remember many other references to gays by the media during my childhood.

I didn’t have any inherent dislike of gay people growing up. Though, being called a “fag” or “queer” by a peer was considered highly unfavorable and generally started a fight. Even though homosexuality wasn’t a primary topic of conversation during those years, when it was mentioned, it was always a negative thing and typically spoken of with disgust. “Queers” were people you had to watch out for. They were the kind that messed with little boys. I don’t recall a single correlation of homosexuality with anything less than evil in daily life or the media until I was in my teens. If I’d grown up somewhere other than Indiana, that may not have been the case. But, my childhood was during the 80’s and I was a Hoosier.

I didn’t know anyone who was outwardly gay in school until I was a senior and one girl came out as a lesbian. I did not know her well, but I did give her a ride home from school once. Even with all the negativity toward gays growing up, I had no dislike for gay people. Or rather, since I didn’t really know any, I didn’t dislike the idea of people being gay.

I remember the TV movie “Doing Time on Maple Drive” in 1992. Jim Carrey was in it and played the alcoholic brother of a young, closeted, gay man. I really liked that movie. After watching the movie, I recall asking myself, “Am I gay?” I didn’t feel gay, but I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time either. After a day or two, I concluded for certain that I wasn’t gay.  Shows like that make you think and ask deep, uncomfortable questions. That’s one reason why conservatives don’t want shows like that on TV.

A guy in his mid-thirties, Walter, was the first gay person I actually became friends with. He was a prep guy in the kitchen at the country club I worked at part-time on the weekends my junior and senior years of high school. He was a nice guy and was always joking around. Once, I had a mishap in the kitchen and exclaimed, “Damn! I almost poked my eye out!” Walter told me that it would be horrible if I lost an eye, because my eyes were pretty. After that, my other busboy friends nicknamed me, “Pretty Eyes.” It wasn’t meant to be a derogatory name. They weren’t making fun of me because a gay guy thought I was cute. It was just a funny nickname… kind of like how we called the sous chef, “Spider.” Though, I don’t know how he earned that moniker.

Walter was a cool guy and was very kind to everyone. I once got upset when a drunk wedding guest at the country club was joking about gays within Walter’s earshot. I could see that it hurt his feelings and that bothered me. There was another gay man that worked there for a while. He was the head chef and was a jerk. I learned that being gay doesn’t make you act one way or another.  As is the case with all types of people, regardless of ethnicity, color, creed, or sexual orientation, you are in charge of your own character and behavior.

It wasn’t until I became a Christian and started really caring what the Bible had to say that I found out gays actually were evil after all. I got “saved” the summer after I graduated high school and later began attending a fundamental church when I was nineteen. At my first church, they didn’t talk a lot about gays. Most people were nice. They loved gays, but just despised their sin like you were supposed to. Only after the pastor left and that church dispersed did I end up in a church that really hated gays in a comprehensive fashion.

The only other congregation I knew anyone at in the town of Mooresville, In. was Victory Baptist Church. I’d been to a revival there and it seemed lively. As a newly married couple of twenty-one, my wife and I started attending Victory and quickly made it our official church home. We remained members there for several years and I also did some ministry. But, the general disdain for gays was more than obvious. They weren’t “gays” anyway. “Gay” means happy and gays are actually miserable people, so we were told. They should only be called “queers,” “fags,” “Sodomites,” or other similar terms.

The ideology was an uncomfortable fit for me, like a sweater two sizes too small. But, I was a young, impressionable man. And the most important thing was that they had “Bible” on their beliefs. The Bible DOES say to stone homosexuals in the Law. Jesus DID validate the Law of Moses. Paul DID write that those who burned in lust for the same sex were worthy of death. Not only that, but those who supported them deserve condemnation as well. I didn’t particularly have anything against gays, but my God did. I didn’t want Him mad at me, so I accepted that ideology for a span of time.

Let me give you a “through the looking glass” view of what it’s like to be in that place dogmatically… you say you aren’t “homophobic” because you aren’t afraid of gays in a one-on-one way. (I mean, they’re sissies right? So they can’t beat you up.) Yet, you are terrified of their impact on culture at large. The idea that the traditional, fundamental voice may lose the cultural microphone in America is unspeakable. Any one getting to speak a positive word publicly for gays equals persecution of you personally. The “Gay Agenda” is evil, anti-God, and wants to steal your Christian liberty in America. That’s what the fundamental pastors say anyway. You outwardly express that you “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Though, you quietly despise the sinner too. They are an abomination to God. You can’t love God AND love those who implicitly spit on His Word at the same time in any genuine or uncondescending way. You won’t even allow yourself to enjoy watching Ellen on TV. (Our pastor always referred to her as, “Ellen Degenerate”.)

In the end, the pastor’s racism got to me more than his homophobia. The New Testament, for the most part, disagreed with his racism. So, I talked to him about the racism issue privately. After being called an “Antichrist,” I left the church. But, the condemnation of gays followed me out the door in the Bible tucked under my arm.

As I grew in maturity and compassion over the years, my “too-small sweater” convictions became ever tighter and more uncomfortable. To be clear, I was very compassionate toward gays prior to adopting Biblical dogma about homosexuality. It took my religion to numb my natural instincts for some years. I did not hate or despise gays during those next few years. I actually had quite a love and understanding that I had to forcibly repress in order to align with the Sacred Text. The final nail in the coffin for the negative convictions I had embraced toward LGBT individuals came in 2012.

One day when I was messing around on Youtube, I saw a video post titled, “Same Love.” I had no idea what it was, but I clicked on the link.

I watched that video which now has well over 1oo million views when it was a new post gone-viral. I was sitting alone at my laptop in the house. I don’t recall where my family had gone that afternoon. The words of that song, the story, and images were exciting a part of my human conscience that I had turned off for over a decade. It actually made me cry. I think I watched it several more times right after. But, even though it moved me deeply, I wasn’t bold enough to share it on my Facebook wall at the time.

I had already been wrestling with my faith and beliefs in general for some months. But that song was a sniper’s shot directly to one specific conviction that had to be confronted and done away with. Since then, I have allowed myself to fully break free from ancient and repressive dogmas. My natural instincts to love other people, regardless of sexuality, exist unhindered. I am actually ashamed of the quiet and disingenuous spite for homosexuals that I carried for those years. It wasn’t a preeminent thing in my life. Yet, it did exist. It sat deep under the surface, but ready to be activated when occasion called for it. That is sad. I apologize to the LGBT community for my lack of insight toward homosexuality during that stage of my life. I am sorry for not lifting my voice for your freedom in our culture earlier. I will now.

There are moments and events that can be a tipping point for things in our lives and in our culture. But for me, I will never forget where I was the first time I heard the song, “Same Love.” Many thanks to you Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert. Much love to you. –Luke Austin Daugherty

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After HJR-3 is Passed in Indiana, THEN we can Really Work on Getting “Traditional”!

I am in gleeful expectation of the full House vote on the HJR-3 Amendment, also known as the, “Gay Marriage Ban,” this coming week. Of recent days, I have been increasingly unsettled by the proposition that my fellow Indiana citizens (the gay ones) may be able to legally marry in the future.

This has been very troubling to me. I have been happily married to my wife, Angela, for 15 years now. Our anniversary is approaching in May. Though our marriage has been highly stable and we have five kids, I am afraid that if the gays were allowed to have legal unions, my wife and I may never see our 16th anniversary. There is something about the notion of icky gays marrying legally that I think would crumble my own traditional marriage. As a couple, my wife and I have made it through good times and bad, the deaths of loved ones, and seeing each other make it through close brushes with death. But, the weight of living in a culture where homos could have their sinful partnerships justified by legal marriage would be more than our marriage could bear. If that was the case in Indiana, I think my divorce would just be inevitable…

That said, I ask all lawmakers in Indiana that cast a ballot on HJR-3 next week to vote a loud, firm, and resonant, “YES!” Then, let’s get this thing through the State Senate and on the public ballot next November so all Indiana citizens can have their say! And their say should be, “YES! We vote against gay marriage! Because it’s already illegal here, but an amendment to the State Constitution would make it REALLY illegal!”

Yet, once we have that item checked off the list, we have so much farther to go for “traditional values” in Indiana. I’ve been reading my Bible a lot recently and there are some other serious matters that must be addressed. We need a few more key laws and amendments added that can help us navigate our way back to a more “traditional” and wholesome culture, guided by the Bible. Below is my personal wish list for traditional laws that I would like added to our Indiana code in the near future:

  1. Once we’ve blocked the gays from marrying, we need an amendment that solidifies the legality of REAL traditional Biblical marriage…polygamy. If one wife is good, then two or three should be better. If you are super-rich, like King Solomon, you can have hundreds, plus hundreds of prostitutes. Whatever floats your boat. Unless you are a lesbian. Then you can’t have any. (Ps. Make prostitution legal too. Without it, we wouldn’t have the Tribe of Judah that Jesus eventually came from)
  2. With all the pressure to make Indiana a more “business friendly” state, we need to reinstitute slavery. The Bible is very pro-slavery and even tells slave masters the right way to beat their slaves, so we can just copy/paste the Bible text into our state code to keep it simple. Obviously, we wouldn’t want to transgress the rights of our fellow Hoosiers and let’s not make this a “black-white” thing like the last time. Rather, we’ll do as our more moral and ancient forefathers did in the Scripture. We can just send people over to a bordering state (I suggest Illinois) and forcibly bring unfortunates back to Indiana to be our slaves. It’s good for corporations. And what’s good for corporations, is good for Indiana.
  3. Since we have a lot of over-crowding of our jails and juveniles, we should make more crimes capital offenses. If parents could just stone their rebellious and/or fornicating kids, problem solved. Also, go heavy on people who deny Yahweh (and we’ll toss in Jesus). Make belonging to a “false religion” a crime punishable by death again. But, let’s forget about the Sabbath thing. Closing shop one day a week can be bad for business. And, if you could be killed for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, how could you play golf on your day off? Also, go easy on greed, adultery, and lying. We can’t put a portion of our own lawmakers behind bars now can we?

(Please note: the above article is satire. Don’t hate me. Unless you actually like the article…then you can hate me)

Please make your voice heard by your representative before next week. I did. Follow the link below.

http://www.freedomindiana.org/hjr3/

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The “Friendly Atheist” and Indianapolis Star on my CD “Half Life”

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I was excited this week to see a story on my new CD in the Indianapolis Star AND on the Friendly Atheist blog! The CD was recorded in 2012 and released in 2013.

Check out the stories and check out the CD! It is available on iTunes, Amazon, and CDbaby. See links on the stories and for the CD below.

Indy Star article by Dave Lindquist:

http://www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/music/2014/01/20/daugherty-pazz-jop-taylor-swift-aronoff-grammys-beatles/4655397/

Friendly Atheist blog by Hemant Mehta:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/01/21/this-singer-songwriter-made-an-album-thats-half-christian-and-half-atheist/

CD preview and download sites:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/half-life/id615843809

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lukeaustindaugherty

4 Reasons in Defense of Bill Nye Debating Ken Ham

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When I heard several weeks ago that Bill Nye would be debating Ken Ham at the “Creation Museum,” I was beyond excited. Not only that, but I ACTUALLY got one of the less than 1,000 tickets to the event! (see my previous blog, “I Got a Golden Ticket! I’m Going to the Nye vs. Ham Debate!”)

Since then, I’ve noticed quite an outcry against Nye participating in the debate with a “young earth creationist.” There is the assertion that Nye’s presence will give the Creation Museum and it’s founder, Ken Ham, a new level of credibility. Also, that the task is a waste of time because those who don’t regard modern science over their religious dogmas regarding the age of the earth, evolution, etc. will not change their minds anyway. Some suggest that Nye, like Richard Dawkins, should eschew debates with creationists outright.

Let me give you several reasons why I support Nye participating in the debate:

1. Nye is a true ambassador for science- From 20 years ago with the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” show until recent years appearing on many news shows, Nye desires to educate the masses about the Scientific Method and demonstrable facts about the world and cosmos. We live in a Nation where nearly everyone uses advanced technologies, yet the vast minority of people is scientifically illiterate. We NEED people like Bill Nye, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and others who are giants in the scientific community, yet passionate and able to deliver a zest for science to the masses.

2. Bill Nye ISN’T a “debater”- Some have decried Nye’s potential potency as a debater against Ham, who is a seasoned debater for his YEC cause. Ham knows his “argument” well and is very experienced at presenting it. You can see Ham’s unforgiving debate style even against a fellow believer that holds an “old earth” position in his square off with Hugh Ross in this video.

Bill Nye is a natural educator, not a debater. He follows the patient, explanatory pattern of his own professor in college, Carl Sagan. Sagan’s desire to kindly and methodically impart scientific facts is illuminated in this video of his dialogue with a creationist challenging evolutionary science decades ago:

You can note Nye’s similar style in this video where he was supporting the issue of climate change:

In this ongoing, “beating a dead horse,” creationist vs. evolutionary science battle; we need more dialogue and less debate. Bill Nye can be a HUGE part of that needed dialogue.

3. People DO actually change their minds- I know, because I am one of them. I used to be a fundamentalist, Young Earth Creationist Christian. I took the book of Genesis as a literal history of the creation of the earth and humanity. Eventually, I had to face science, logic, and reason. When that happened, I changed my mind. Even if it’s the minority of adults who WILL ever change their minds for the better, it’s still encouraging. It is the next generation that will be the real catalyst for moving from fables to fact. Events like this one that Nye is participating in will add needed momentum to this paradigm shift in our scientifically ignorant Nation.

4. “Credibility” isn’t so easily earned- There is a large number of American Christians that give Ken Ham’s teachings and the Creation Museum credibility now. There is a larger number of Christians, believers in other faiths, and non-theists who do not. Successfully inviting an established scientist to a publicized debate isn’t going to cause many of the second group to dispense a new-found credibility to Ham or the Creation Museum. I am going to the debate. I spent my $30 for the ticket. But, I do not have 1% more respect for the veracity of Ham’s position or the Creation Museum than I already did. That said, I am glad the Creation Museum is having the event. I also doubt the “Museum” will lose much credibility with those that support it when they hear Nye’s presentation. Though I believe the greater potential for gains is on the side of science. Facts don’t always win, but facts do possess more traction than fables in the long run. We can’t be afraid of the bullying of fables or those who preach them as truth. I applaud Bill Nye for being willing to confront a premier preacher of these fables on Ham’s own turf.

I am in great anticipation of this event on the 4th of February. Please follow my blog for more updates and information before, during, and after the debate! For more information and opinions on this debate, see the links below:

AronRa’s take on the debate:

Bill Nye talks about debate:

Bill Nye’s original viral video against creationism:

Ken Ham’s initial response to Bill Nye’s viral video against creationism:

The Friendly Atheist’s blog on the debate:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/01/09/why-the-bill-nyeken-ham-debate-may-not-be-such-a-bad-thing/

 

Smile. Things Are Getting Better…Really.

"Smiley Face" art by my daughter Lydia Daugherty

“Smiley Face” art by my daughter Lydia Daugherty

It’s easy to get bummed out about life; especially when your own isn’t going so smooth. But, there are legitimate reasons to be encouraged about things in general. As a human species, we are actually making real headway in some important areas.

From unintended pregnancies and absolute poverty, to overall violence and murder, statistics are improving. Since the numbers in these stats represent humans, the stats really mean something. The “macro view” of life today is a bit sunnier than it used to be.

I first took notice to some of these trends last year when exploring Dr. Steven Pinker’s work on violence and murder rates across the span of recorded human history. Not only have the rates of violence and murder gone down over the centuries as a whole, there have been some noticeable declines in the last half century.  If you’d like to see a condensed presentation of his work in the area of violence, please view his TED Talk, “The Surprising Decline in Violence,” in the link at the bottom. He has also done other extensive talks and writing on the subject.

After seeing a very recent video on some other improvements in the world from John Green, “GOOD NEWS: 14 Reasons 2014 May Be the Best Year Ever,” I decided to share some of the good news with my readers. He briefly covers some good related data in the video below.

Is there still plenty of room for humanity to improve? Sure. Do many people still suffer preventable ills and injustices? Of course they do. Are there still areas of the world where tragedy is the present norm? Yes. So, we still have much room for progress and there are lots of opportunities to make a difference.

For some though, I know there is a resistance to such assertions of global improvement. I have gotten some ideological “push back” in personal conversations from people who actually believe and/or hope things are getting worse on the large scale. I’ve also run across the same thing on social networking in some cases. In relation to these anecdotal experiences, I’d like to offer two possible reasons for the denial of human progress.

First, we humans tend to have a very myopic view of “life” in general. We project our own experiences onto the masses, unable to see things from the perspective of others. Such a self-regulated scope can have negative implications in two distinct ways: 1. if we “have it good” and are very optimistic in general, we can forget that many others don’t get along so well and/or may be suffering in ways that we could help alleviate. 2. If our own life is rough, we can be depressed about life in general and not realize that things are better for many others and can get better for us as well. That pessimism can create an infinite loop of negativity and a feeling of situational impotence in life.

The second reason is something I’d like to introduce. I have not seen this formally referred to before, so I’ll name it myself. I’ll call it an, “Apocalyptic Bias.” I have seen this bias at work personally in the lives of others and my own life in years past. For those that embrace the fundamental “end times” doctrines of some major religions or some cults, there is a tacit need for things to be getting worse. A particular holy book, prophet, or god said things would be declining, so they are. Also, when there is a deep cognitive desire for a forthcoming “salvation” to rescue one from the mundaneness of life, things must get worse before they get better. Any data that does not jive with such a worldview must be retooled, ignored, or spun in a way that fits the apocalyptic paradigm.

To allow that the overall picture of humanity is improving is to admit you are wrong theologically or that you might not be in the “chosen generation” to experience the Apocalypse, Rapture, etc. Either scenario makes for a potentially long, boring life working and paying taxes for decades before a natural death whisks you away from the lively side of this terrestrial plane.  Such a life is definitely not as exciting as parting skies, raining fire, demonic locusts, and angelic trumpets sounding.

All that said some important things are getting better. Why? There are multiple causes. Many people are helping others and improving their own selves as well. The world is getting smaller, so it’s easier for individuals and groups to have a global impact. Also, with the instantaneous dissemination of information via the internet, people around the world have access to positive ideas that they were not exposed to even a decade ago. Many who have only known backward and repressive dogmas in the past are being enlightened by the arts, superior ideologies, and science. More than ever, humans are empowered to write their own story or edit the one they were written into.

So my fellow homosapiens, turn those frowns upside down…

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUhA6fjgnLY

I Got a Golden Ticket! I’m Going to the Nye vs. Ham Debate!

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A week ago, I got super excited. It was announced that there was an upcoming debate scheduled between Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” and Ken Ham on February 4th. Not only that, but it will be just a few hours away from me at the Creation Museum (so called) in Kentucky. Needless to say, I was planning to go.

I’ve seen a few similar debates live, but never between such “giants” of their field in person. Bill Nye, the ever sought out scientist who studied under Carl Sagan in college, will be arguing on the side of biological evolution. Ken Ham, the founder of the “Answers in Genesis” ministry and a young earth Creationist, will be arguing on the side of a literal “7 day” creation model via the God of the Bible. The official question is, “Is creation a viable model of origins?” I presume they mean the origin of humanity and not the origin of the universe in this case. Maybe they will cover both, though that would be a lot of “ground” as it were.

I’m not much for watching your typical sports games. No major sporting events hold much allure for me personally. But a real battle of science, philosophy, or ideology…NOW you’ve got my attention! I’ve watched hundreds of debates on youtube and other online sites. From Hitchens vs. Lennox, to Russell vs. Copleston, I’ve watched or listened to any and all I can find. The only thing that excites me more that such a debate is an actual dialogue, being so much the rarer in this world.

Many have asked the question, “Why would Nye even waste his time debating a young earth creationist anyway?!” Well, I’m glad he is. I think that Nye is a man of dialogue, much in the same fashion that his kindly and outspoken predecessor Carl Sagan was. Not that I have any pretentions about Nye opening Ham’s eyes to the merits of modern science. Giving up on a literal interpretation of the first book of the Bible would be very inconvenient when you’re just getting started on building a “life sized ark” project that isn’t doing too well financially. But perhaps some “collateral damage” can be caused in the name of enlightenment. After all, one doesn’t have to give up on a god to accept the Theory of Evolution as scientifically valid.

So last week, when I saw that tickets would be for sale on January 6th, I was counting the days. Unfortunately, the Answers in Genesis website didn’t say what time they would go on sale. Would it be midnight? I stayed up until 1am…no luck. Next, I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and woke up with a start at the appointed time. Still no registration up online or time announced for ticket sales; back to bed. I checked again at 9 a.m. and still nothing. I called the Creation Museum. The nice lady said tickets would be on sale at 10.  YES! At 9:55, I was clicking “refresh” once a minute. THEN, at 9:58, the registration icon popped up two minutes early! CLICK! “Error Code”… CLICK! “Error Code”…

I tried to call and the phones were on infinite loop of the pre-recorded museum message. I checked their facebook page while incessantly refreshing and trying to add tickets to my cart. Everyone else posting was having the same problem. By 10:15, AnswersInGenesis.org was still operating with the efficiency of the Obamacare website. Then came the horrible news…the live room of about 800 seats was sold out, so on to “plan b.” I’d have to try for the 200 seat simulcast room. After twenty more minutes of frustration, I almost gave up figuring it was sold out too. But, I wanted this bad! I was working two tabs, refreshing, adding to cart, refreshing, adding to cart, “error code.” Then it happened…my cart loaded!

So my friends, I have my “golden ticket.” I also booked my hotel, since I figured they’d be packed soon. It will be hard to decide whether to dress respectably or wear my “Hitch Slap” t-shirt from the “Cult of Dusty.” Either way, I’ll be there with bells on. I had to add a day pass for the museum to buy my ticket, so I’ll get to hang out early and ride a dinosaur. I won’t disappoint on my blog reporting, so be sure to follow me for updates. Keep an eye out for me if you go and say, “Hi.” After the debate, we can grab a beer. And even if we don’t agree, we can still have a dialogue.

See links for info:

Debate info page: http://www.answersingenesis.org/outreach/event/Nye-Ham-Debate/

Bill Nye on creationism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHbYJfwFgOU

Ken Ham response to Nye video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxX11c1cSWU

A Snow Storm is Coming… NO BABY CARROT IS SAFE!

Camby, In. Meijer Store. 1/4/14 Photo Credit: Angela Daugherty

Camby, In. Meijer Store. 1/4/14 Photo Credit: Angela Daugherty

The weather man says a bad storm is brewing! It’s due to hit Central Indiana about 4 a.m. Sunday morning, 1/5/14. The temps are supposed to drop and the inches of snow will fall. We are predicted to get up to a foot of snow and below zero temperatures. To Floridians, that would be the Apocalypse, for some Alaskans…summer. 

My wife, like many thousands of other shoppers apparently, hit the grocery for a few “last minute” items today. She didn’t end up getting the ground beef we needed for our goulash and had to opt for ground turkey sausage, as it was the only ground meat left in the building. Actually, the ground turkey ended up being pretty good in the dish.

I know the “staple foods” are usually hit hard when a storm is coming. There is something about Hoosiers when it snows that makes them think, “THE SNOW COMETH! LET US FEAST UPON SLAIN LOAVES OF AUNT MILLIE’S SLICED BREAD!” The bread aisle, along with the milk and egg section is typically pretty empty after the hoards have swarmed.

But this time…even the baby carrots and sundry produce items fell prey to the stockpiling masses! My wife, Angela, took the above pictures this afternoon. Not even a sack of squishy, outdated bean sprouts was left…only one lonely container of sour cream.

So my fellow Midwesterners, try to stay safe and tucked in if it gets bad. Don’t drive any more than you have to. Enjoy a bit of down-time if the county puts out an emergency driving restriction. Snuggle up with a good book or stay in touch on social media. Have fun with the family and enjoy a home movie party.

At the very least, you’ll have plenty of baby carrots to snack on…

http://www.theindychannel.com/weather

“Cha-Ching!” Goes the Cell Phone: Year 6 for an Entrepreneur and Lessons Learned

On this day in 2008, at 30 years old, I made a big decision. After months of back and forth, I decided to start a business. I was a husband, father of five, and part-time professional singer/songwriter. But, my main gig was being a regional driver for a household goods moving company. Damn hard work.

At that time, I was working the same job I had in my early twenties. After leaving the moving business the first time, I said I’d never go back. But, after several years of busy concert schedules and limited flex time at my previous job, I made a deal with my old company; give me any time off that I ask for with thirty days’ notice and you can work me like a rented mule the rest of the time. They knew how I worked and my level of customer service, so they agreed. And to no surprise, they held up their end of the bargain, especially the second part.

I stayed there about three years before getting fed up with the road, illegal hours for a driver, some of the fools I had to manage on jobs, and my ever tiring back. Not that there weren’t perks. Most of my songs came from experiences I had travelling and two of my co-workers became my good friends. But, in the ending months of 2007, the fear of another year to come like the one before became scarier than the proposition of starting a business and failing. That was the key…being pushed passed the point of contempt for the “status quo” in my work life and the fallout it had on my family life. I was missing too much and was just too damn worn out when I was home. But, that’s what working 120 plus hours some weeks will do to you, even when you’re young and strong.

So, beginning 1/1/08, I started scheming on a way to make a big change. I didn’t have much money or many foreseeable options. I decided to start a “near industry” business to capitalize on my current contacts and skills. I gave myself 4 months to plan and execute the launch of my business.

I realized that what I would do at first may only be a stepping stone to anther venture, but it was a necessary one. I had to just create some space to live, think, and wait for and create other opportunities. It was a lot like “pulling guard” in Jiu Jitsu… I was creating a “safe place” from which to defend or attack in due time. A position I could potentially loose from, but hoped to just do work and catch my breath for the time being.

My business officially began April 1, 2008, a month early. I started a “3rd party company” that assisted moving companies with what was out of their scope. I did custom crating, pool table and grand piano servicing, appliances, and more. I created a turn-key business with zero debt and produced a living wage right out of the gate on a $3,000 start-up budget. Not bad if I say so myself.

But, actually doing it was scary as hell. I almost changed my mind a couple times in February ’08. I nearly scrapped the whole idea for the safety of the time clock boat anchor. Sure glad I didn’t.

Then, in the late summer of ’08, the economy crashed. The good thing was, since I worked for myself, I had a lot of options to adapt. When contracting work was slow from moving businesses, I hustled side work on Craigslist and by word of mouth. I did interior painting, drywall work, bought and sold, and scrapped tons of metal over the next couple years. Unfortunately, with the moving business hit hard, my 3rd party work got slower every year, so I had to hustle harder. Always hunting for side jobs got old and since people were getting broker, they did less home improvement…that meant less side jobs to go around.

The great thing was I still made a livable income in about half the hours that I used to work as an employee. Some weeks I’d have a few days off through the week then be really busy the next. But overall, I saw my family every day and was pretty energized to enjoy them. I got to spend lots of time with my wife, who is my best friend, for the first time in our marriage.

That said, in the spring of 2011 I desired to have a more stable type of business. My wife and I discussed options and came up with a new plan. I would escalate my part time hustle, buying and selling, to my main gig. The plan was to replace half our income in six months, before the slow season for my current business. The next phase was to completely replace our income with buying and selling in twelve months. We achieved the first phase in five months and completely replaced our income in nine months. The initial capital I had to invest at my first auction on May 15, 2011…$200. I bought five things that sold within a month for over $1,100 and we were off.

For the first four months, I only sold on Craigslist. Then in late August, I purchased a rare knife at an auction for $9. I knew I’d need greater exposure to get what it was worth. I listed it on ebay and a week later it sold for $490. I fell in love with ebay and within three months, it became my primary selling format.

It still is on 1/1/14 and we’ve come a long way. We now have three “Power Seller” and “Top Rated” ebay stores. I work less hours than ever, spend stupid amounts of time with my family, and basically do whatever the hell I want every day. I’m not rich in dollars, but if freedom is your currency, I’m a millionaire.

So at 12:54 a.m. today, I got my first sale of 2014. “Cha-Ching” went my ebay cell phone app. Not a big sale, just a $39 vintage coffee percolator that I bought for $3. I’ll have shipping, ebay, and paypal fees out of that, but will still net about $25ish. That “Cha-Ching” is less an audible symbol for money and more of freedom for me. Good job ebay on creating that Pavlovian response via your app by the way!

One thousand words later, I’ll briefly share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my business. I hope some of you might be able to get some use out of them if you’re interested in starting your own company or service as well.

  1. “Pulling the trigger” is the hardest thing– It is one thing to desire change, another to plan, but to execute a plan is the tipping point. That not only applies to business, but life in general. Most people are ruled by fear. They let the fear of “what if” bully them into settling for something they are dissatisfied with in life. You MUST master that fear and kick that bully’s ass in order to flip the script in your life.
  2. Bet on yourself- Every change has varying degrees of risk. But, do you know what people don’t think about? The risk that leaving everything the same has. Don’t be afraid to bet all your “chips” on yourself. Then, rise to the occasion and be your own hero.
  3. With a great plan and the right tools, you are more likely to succeed than to fail– I did not have a mentor when I started my business or anyone pushing me to do it. I did have people that supported me and that was invaluable. I also had the experiences of being exposed to business in my younger years by my mom, dad, and grandparents in different ways. Yet, I still needed other knowledge and information. I got that from the Internet and books. Some things (actually a lot of things) I had to figure out on the fly. But, you handle things as they come. I know the stats on start-up businesses failing. The thing is, many of the failures have distinct features in common. Poor planning is #1. Lack of understanding of the business being started is another vice. There is NOTHING you need to learn that you can’t find out. Do your due diligence and then make things happen.
  4. Sometimes, “You can’t get there from here.”– I’ve heard old timers from the mountains use that phrase jokingly to describe where they are from. But, it can be true situationally. You may not be able to jump right from your current “A” to your perfect world “B.” You might have to make some incremental changes toward your ultimate goal. Don’t be discouraged from the journey toward your goal just because it won’t be an instantaneous teleportation. Usually, the “good stuff” in life can take a lot of hard work. Sweat equity can be more important than investment capital. If you have less of one, you’ll probably need more of the other
  5. It’s worth it- There’s nothing like being able to thank your own former self for the good decisions he or she made that led you to where you wanted to be. There’s always more work to do and need to reinvent things. Start your journey off well and in time, if you stay the course, you’ll be glad you did.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing my blog! I am an independent poet, author, and singer/songwriter and I have my own ebay business to keep me as flexible as possible. But, writing takes time and if you appreciate what I do, if you have been moved or made to think by my writing, OR have just enjoyed something on my blog, please throw a buck or two in my tip jar!:) Your kind contribution may buy me a cup of coffee out at my next writing session. Click my easy paypal “tip jar” link that follows and THANKS! -Luke

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