I’ve been blogging off and on now for about 10 years. And while I feel like my writing has steadily improved during that time, one element seems to remain elusive: finding my – super true, the real me, no holds barred – voice.
Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe you guys feel like you know me. In fact that would be great. But if I’m being honest with myself, I know it’s a constant struggle on my end to totally let the old guard down. This is incredibly ironic because in real life I am an open book holding nothing back. Anyone who really knows me knows that to be true. As a reader, that’s one thing you probably didn’t know about me. But now you do and that’s a good place to start.
- I’m a very open and authentic guy in real life. I’ll tell you anything you want to know.
- I’m a very young 46 – I say that because I really do feel young. Young-er at least. Most of my closest friends are younger than me, not on purpose, but mainly because that’s who my wife and I tend to be drawn to and for some reason they seem to be drawn to us. Speaking of my wife…
- I married my high school sweetheart – Tammy and I met in ’85 and started dating right at the end of my junior and her sophomore year. She moved to Birmingham from Pennsylvania and her accent was so weird – I couldn’t get enough of it! We dated off and on – mostly on – and were married in ’88 at the age of 20 – 27 years ago this coming April 7th.
- I have 3 awesome kids – Marcus is the 26, is married to the wonderful Haley, and they live in Montgomery. Marcus works for one of our companies – VideoAnnouncements.TV – as a producer/editor. Madison is 21 and a senior at Auburn and graduates this spring with a degree in psychology. She’s going to be a therapist. Emma is 17 and a junior in high school.
- I’m the oldest of 3 brothers – I have 2 of the coolest brothers a guy could want. They are my best friends. We love being together and share almost everything in common. Whenever I hear people talk about their siblings in a negative way – as in they aren’t close, or don’t get along – I absolutely cannot relate. The middle brother Matt has been a producer for a big media company in Atlanta and is now an executive with the brand new Justice Network. Matt is who taught me how to do video and changed my life. The youngest is Michael John, MJ to us. He’s a great musician and is a worship pastor for a kickin’ church in Weatherford, TX (outside of Fort Worth) called New River.
- My dad passed away this past August – He was 69. He had some health problems off and on but always pulled through. But on August 20th it caught up with him. It’s still really fresh and I miss him terribly. But the peace comes from knowing our separation is only temporary and one day we’ll be together again. I would love for you to check out this post I wrote the week after his funeral so you can see what an awesome guy he was.
- I never finished college – I had pretty much a full ride to Samford University in Birmingham on a music scholarship. I went for a year and absolutely hated it. I was miserable. I left after my freshman year and never looked back. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and college wasn’t going to help me get there any faster. It was the right decision for me and I’ve never regretted it.
- I’m a huge Auburn fan – In Alabama, when you meet someone you ask 2 questions: 1) What do you do? 2) Alabama or Auburn? We’re Auburn. My son Marcus is an Auburn grad. My daughter Madison is a senior at Auburn and will graduate this May. My youngest Emma will likely go there when she starts college in the fall of 2016. My brother Matt and I were there for the 2013 Iron Bowl – the greatest ending to a game in the history of football. War Damn Eagle. Enough said.
- We used to road bike – Tammy and I used to be serious road bikers. No, not the Harley kind. The wearing the super tight shorts with the pad in the crotch pissing off all the cars who have to go around us kind. Yes I have pictures. No you’re never going to see them. We loved it and had a great group of friends we biked with. And then we were in a pretty serious accident and Tammy broke her neck. It was unbelievably scary. That was in ’06. We rode again, but it was just never quite the same. Plus to get in a great workout on a bike is a 2-3 hour proposition all in so, you know, hard to fit in.
- Star Wars, not Star Trek – although I do love what JJ has done with the Trekky franchise. And I’m crazy excited to see what he does with the next Star Wars flick.
- I’ve been to 40 of the 50 states – a huge perk to what I do for a living. I love ‘merica and I love seeing it in person. Hopefully I’ll get to see the other 10 before it’s all said and done.
- I’m a dog person – nothing against cats – although I do believe deep down they are satan’s minions – but dogs are the bomb. Our first dog was Jake, a beautiful white dog, half sheperd half husky. Then we had Missy, a pure bred Australian Cattle Dog, a Blue Heeler. She died suddenly this past October. She was only 10 and had a stroke. We made it through December but were seriously jonesing to have a dog in the house, so now we have Harley. He’s a St. Bernard -Golden Retriever mix. 4 months old and 32 lbs. He’s going to be huge. We love him. You can see a post I wrote about him here.
- Cigar aficionado – I love cigars. I don’t smoke a lot, maybe 2 a month on average. But it’s something I love to do with friends. Or when I’ve had a huge victory. Or when I’ve had a really tough day or I’m working through a hard decision. Ok, maybe 3 times a month. This is a pic of me and my brothers and our sons enjoying a Christmas stogie reminiscing about our dad. For the record, the little ones are only there to suck up the second hand smoke so us older ones don’t have to. Don’t tell their mother.
- I lost 40 lbs last year – I feel so much better in a million different ways. I’ve got more to lose, but definitely on the downhill side of that journey.
- I’ve never watched Lost – never, not even for a second. But I did have a blast watching everyone else on the planet suffer through it.
- I have a huge sweet tooth – Cake or pie? Yes please. Do you want ice cr…? Yes please. Let’s just say that when I go to Bruster’s they know me by name. Three words: Graham. Central. Station. By the pint. But only a couple times per month. OK, maybe three.
- A job I would love to try – Comedian. I would suck at it, but that world, the whole thing, just fascinates me. I love watching documentaries about it. I love Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘Comedians Riding In Cars Getting Coffee’ where comedians talk about the craft and the industry. Anyone who can walk out on a stage with nothing but a mic and OWN a crowd for 90 minutes and make them laugh until they cry – you’re my hero.
- I’m a musician – I played in the band in high school. Went to college on a music scholarship. Started a band in ’86 called Point Blank. Yes it was everything you can imagine. In ’87-’88 I was in a band called The Edge that toured the U.S. and Canada doing middle and high school assemblies, concerts, etc… as part of an organization called Young American Showcase. After that I was a worship pastor for almost 20 years. I’ve performed over 1000 times and in front of more than 500,000 people. It was a blast.
- Some of my favorite movies are RomComs – anything by Nancy Meyers. Or Nora Ephron. Anything with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In fact The Holiday is on in the background as I’m writing this post. Don’t judge.
- Our family lives around the firepit when it’s cold – We LOVE the firepit. If you follow me on social media you know I speak the truth. I’ve posted more pics of us around the firepit than most people do of their kids. We buy firewood by the truckload. So much so that we get a volume discount – no kidding. I have a firewood guy and he’s on speed dial. I’m not exaggerating. And we go through 4-5 truckloads every winter. Sidebar – when I say ‘winter’, I mean year round any night it gets 50 degrees or less. Ok, 55. 60 if the wind is blowing out of the north.
- I’m an extremely patient person except when I’m driving – It takes a lot to get me worked up. But incompetence behind the wheel drives me insane. In fact there’s a famous story in our family about me yelling something ugly at another driver when I thought I was alone in the car, only to discover that my 3 year old daughter was in the backseat. Do as I say, not what I do. Actually don’t do what I say either, because it was very ugly and not cool. That was 18 years ago. I’m still working on it.
- I drive a Ford F150 – Bright red, 4 wheel drive. I love it. You know that new commercial where the focus group sees the same guy in the same setting only in one picture he’s in front of a little compact car and in the other he’s in front of a truck? And they think the guy with the truck is awesome? I’m the guy with the truck. Only I have a Ford, not a Chevy, so I could kick that guy’s butt. Ask anybody. Anybody who drives a Ford anyway.
- I’m extremely sarcastic – as is my wife and my 3 kids. We have a lot of fun together.
- I was a church planter – Tammy and I helped plant 2 churches in Kansas and another one in Birmingham. I produced the Churchplanters.com ‘Velocity’ conference for @shawnlovejoy and @davidputman for it’s first three years. I love, respect and admire anyone who plants a church.
- I’ve filmed around the world – We’ve been blessed to work in 6 different countries and 4 different continents. The highlight was a project we did for ChildFund International that took 3 weeks to shoot and literally took us around the world. It was one of the coolest and hardest experiences of my life. I would do it again tomorrow. This is a pic Tammy took of me in 2012 hiking miles into the mountains of Ecuador because the road was washed out and our SUV couldn’t get through. And before I lost the 40 lbs
- I collect vintage film/movie cameras – I love the look and feel of these old cameras. They’re made out of real steel, no plastic, and most of them still work today even though they are 60-90 years old. They truly don’t make them like they used to.
- I almost lost everything in 2010 – When the economy crashed it took a few years to catch up with our business, but catch up it did. And I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming. I was an idiot. Had to lay off all our guys, close our office and move back to working from home. It was awful. And scary. But we made it through and learned some invaluable lessons. It changed the way we run our business and has made us way stronger. I wouldn’t want to go through anything like that again, but I’m glad we had that experience. We’re better off today because of it.
- I love to hear people’s stories – I’ll drive you crazy asking you questions. Can’t get enough details, angles, examples. It fascinates me.
- I love pastors and creatives – I work really hard at trying to help church leaders and people who are creative. I desperately want to help them be better at what they do so they can be more successful and impact more lives. It’s what I think about when I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep at night. I love teaching, sharing and coaching.
- I’m a recovering people pleaser – I used to really struggle with this, but over the years I’ve made a lot of progress. I care way less than I used to about what people think. I hope that doesn’t make you like me less.
My desire through everything I do is to have an authentic relationship with all of you who tune in. So if this little exercise helps move that needle more towards authenticity, then it was more than worth it. And if nothing else it was a great step for me to make my writing more reflective of who I am in real life. Hope you found it helpful in some way.
Special thanks to Grant Baldwin for inspiring me to do this.