I’ve recently been captivated by a CNBC series called The Profit, a reality show where Marcus Lemonis turns around failing small businesses. He starts by assessing the operation, making a partnership offer, taking absolute control of the turnaround, and executing the plan. For me, it’s a fascinating show to watch, not just as it relates to business, but as it relates to human behavior and psychology. I want to write about several lessons I have learned from watching over 20 episodes.

Profit Point 1: If your business is failing, get someone involved who is smarter than you to help you.

This is priority Numero Uno. After watching over twenty episodes, the profile of the owners share some characteristics. They are stressed out, unable to see the forest for the trees, trapped in a survival mindset, and pretty opinionated. When Marcus begins to assess the mess, the owners look at him like he has just slapped them. “Why are you selling jewelry in a hair salon?” “Why do you not have a system for inventory?” “Why don’t you know your margins?” “Why haven’t you let that person go?”

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Eight years ago, Juan Pena and I, our families, and a small team of people banded together to start a church and non-profit work in an urban neighborhood in Denver. Juan and I have become a tag team as we’ve worked together on urban education, poverty alleviation, and community development. We’ve become great friends and have seen each other in the best of times and worst of times.

Our wives would tell you that sometimes our biggest challenge is unplugging from the work. Our staff team has discovered that there’s an “on-call” nature to the work coupled with an endless amount of work to be done. Without creating intentional spaces for rest and relaxation, one can develop unhealthy patterns pretty quickly. One of the ways, we both relax or “chilax” as my sons call it, is through sports.

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A Story About My Stop On the Road In My Journey to Love My Neighbor

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Seven years ago, I left my homogenous, suburban life to plant a church in the inner city of Denver where I’ve spent the last thirty years of my life. A mentor of mine in the early years of this journey, an African-American man named Ted Travis, told me, “Jason, the church has all but completely lost the idea of what it means to love your neighbor.” I didn’t understand what he meant that day, but seven years later, I believe I have a better understanding. We live in a separated and segregated world. Minority and majority cultures, by and large, do not understand or interact with one another in deep and meaningful ways. Because of my calling, I was thrust into an environment where I could no longer be passive in this area. Ted told me, “You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, and you can’t understand from a distance.” This meant I needed to get up close, listen, try to understand, challenge my assumptions, assess any hidden inner racism from which many of us suffer as a result of living in a divided society, and just love. I needed to form deep and meaningful relationships with people across the racial and socio-economic divide. I needed to be a neighbor.

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My wife and I entered Cole Arts and Sciences Academy with little idea of what we were getting ourselves into.

We had just moved to the inner city and were looking for a school for our three school-age boys. A friend told us to check out Cole — a brand-new school with a new staff and a great leader. I had no idea of Cole’s troubled history as the only school in Colorado to have been closed down twice. I had no idea that 96 percent of the kids lived in poverty or that over 90 percent were below grade level in their reading.

No website, school report cards, or records of previous years record could be found. Cole was a brand new K-8 school.

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