What does being one of Pepperdine's 40 under 40 honorees mean to you?
I think it's a recognition of the various ways in which we all try to do some good for this world and an acknowledgment that there is no perfect prescription. I'm not rich or famous but am certainly doing something unique and hopefully meaningful. It's exciting to see how our alma mater plugs into their graduates years down the line and truly looks to understand how the ethos they cultivate early on plays out in those people's lives.
Describe your success:
One of the most important goals my wife and I have for our children is helping them understand the "big picture" of what we're talking about. For a living, I work on programs that prevent sexual harassment and assault. It's an unusual job and quickly kills all conversation at cocktail parties. Part of the reason is because people have big opinions about the issue that are often based in small details. We, as a society, get so hung up on small details and differences that we let those dictate our reasoning. We avoid understanding and growing because we can't see the forest through the trees.
The way I choose to make my living involves me having all kinds of conversations with which many people are uncomfortable; I talk about sex, gender stereotypes, privilege, pornography, and misogyny to name a few. While I think what I "preach" lines up pretty stinkin' well with Christ's teachings, it's not unusual for someone to ask me about my faith or challenge my morality for having these discussions. I often respond by talking about how Jesus taught in the Temple even though he was frustrated by what went on there and how it's okay to use an imperfect tool to achieve perfect results. Our clients include Ivy League schools and community colleges, feminist advocacy groups and the entire United States military. Those differences can be huge, but so can those similarities and values. Success, in this setting, is about reframing the discussion so people can focus on the big truths like honor or equality instead of on the small roadblocks like dogma or stereotypes. When people realize that their small belief is keeping them from remaining true to their big belief, that's when learning occurs. To me, it's understanding that dogma is secondary to gospel and the forest is more important than the trees.
How does Pepperdine play into your success?
Pepperdine is a fine example of an institution that is willing to have the conversation. As a Church of Christ school, it belongs to a tradition that has had its issues with legalism and dogma. It would be very easy to cling to those small beliefs at the expense of the big ones. However, as a student, I was able to take a world religions class. I was able to walk my faith through service projects. It's not a particularly diverse campus, but I was still able to make friends of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, physical abilities, and socioeconomic classes. My professors were available to answer questions. The environment for the conversation was there, and Pepperdine allowed students to cultivate it themselves.
Who inspires you and why?
I am incredibly blessed. I could ramble on about a great diplomat or author, but I don't even get that far. I don't have to look past my immediate family to be inspired. My wife shows me what grace and support looks like. My parents show me a continuous hunger for learning and new experiences. My brother shows me industriousness and success at his craft, while my sister gives more of herself than anyone I know.
What's next for you? What's your five year outlook? What's your ten year plan?
I have every intention of continuing what I've been doing for several years, pushing forward conversations about the respect we must each have for our fellow human beings. If the types of clients we have allow it, I would love to have broader conversations about how faith plays into this education.
What's your secret sauce?
I mainly just show up. Some days you have good ideas, some bad. Some days you're lazy, some not. However, I find that if I show up, some progress is usually made.
How do you prepare for a busy day?
Get the must haves done first. I tend to tell myself that after those are done, I can cut myself some slack.
What is one of your hobbies?
I have gotten very much into home renovation and building, having to fix more things than I bargained for on our home when we lived in Chicago.
What is your favorite quote?
Hard to pin down, today it's Bernard Shaw's "no man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect."
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I may try to flip houses one day or build furniture. I also like the idea of being a tour guide somewhere in nature.