They say you are who the people who surround you are. So how could any description of who I am start without the people who have influenced me deeply? I’d be remiss not to include the person that was Jesus Christ (and the life He continues today) as my deepest influence, but I think I already have; many of the people below have influenced me in allowing Him to influence them.
* Only including people I’ve met (no authors like Tim Keller, CS Lewis, etc.)
** I am missing quite a few people from this list.
“We do not measure sacrifice by the benefit to us, but by the cost to them.”
Jason was a grad student instructor at UM when we met and currently an interaction designer at GM. At a time where I was truly floating between majors, his encouragement and guidance played a major role in my decision to pursue a degree in human-computer interaction.
Jason speaks to me with unconditional love and no-nonsense instruction. He strikes the same balance in being so fundamentally based in God’s love, while being able to speak to our modern world and all its trappings; he became a Christian just a couple months before we met. He and the slightly-irreverent Brittani make a great team, and I will always remember the loving yet candid and discerning conversations they’ve navigated with skeptic friends of mine.
Caleb is my younger brother, and in many ways, the greater of the two.
I was there to witness the suffering he endured at my own hands as kids, and how he transformed his body from having the highest center of gravity I had ever seen, to a disciplined, incredible athlete capable of outpacing me in any regard. Where I am a mile wide and an inch deep, he is the freaking Marianas trench. Where I am scattershot and liable to shortcuts, he is methodical, balanced, driven, effective, and efficient. I hope to eventually gain some of these hard-earned traits he’s picked up doing things the hard way and the right way. An exiting junior in computer science at Grinnell College.
My dad is a Ph. D in management and my mom is a full-time host (cook, innkeeper, and servant to others). I’d like to say I’m a good cross-section of both. I’ve never seen someone as sacrificial as my mom, who gave away a career as a restauranteur, instructor, or even TV host for me. Then my dad, who worked his buttecks off so I could go to the best school I got into, and exit debt-free (no startup adventure without that). I somehow got a duo that is analytical, steeped in wisdom, and then gregarious, full of energy for others. Not only that, but both are deeply anchored to the Bible.
Someone recently told me I was given a well-balanced family, so that I could places my worries on other things. Well I guess, the pressure’s on. What a blessing.
Alex and I helped launch TEDx at the University of Michigan and later went on to shoot a feature-length film in India called Talim. But before that, he was the funky musician suitemate from the same town as my sophomore year roommate (legendary Frankenmuth). Alex and I never quite saw eye-to-eye, but that didn’t stop him from bringing me into to his incredible pursuits, musically, filmically, and entrepreneurally. Alex would come to have a seismic influence on the music I’ve listened to, the people I’ve met, my sense of design and more. He’s now behind the massively successful Floyd Leg as well as many beautiful films, images and sounds. Time will tell if our paths cross again.
John is an old and short pastor and church-planter in Ann Arbor, MI. We originally met on trip teams as I started to dive into missions in El Salvador. I owe him much of any boldness I have. Never have I met someone as willing and effective in asking the tough question of others – understanding that the cost of a rejection is truly zero.
John helped me learn how to communicate my growing faith and logically defend it with solid underpinnings. He has a way of explaining faith, even citing atheists at times, that I find refreshing. I originally had a crush on his daughter. I later realized I liked her dad better (don’t mistake that). John and I launched a few apologetic forums at UM together, and I once spent an entire spring break with him spreading the Gospel in the pagan land of Columbus, OH (and later meeting a missionary I still support today). Truly gifted in many areas, if not in stature and hygiene.
Chris is a CEO of another social enterprise (PhotoUp) that was further along than FoodCircles when we launched joinfoodcircles.org in November 2013. From that day on, he invested 1-1.5 hours into me bi-weekly for the next year. He challenged me to complete a major goalsetting project called Storyline. As a firm Christ-follower, who’s gone through many same career trials as I, Chris stood out as one of the most “winsome” people I knew in Grand Rapids. Everyone in our shared office loved the guy. How? Why? I tried to keep careful attention.
In my new environs in Seattle, as I set first impressions, I find myself asking, “WWCPD? (What would Chris Palmer do)” No way he could not be on this list.
Joe is the former CMO at FoodCircles, PR Pro, and semi-professional freestyler. He embodied how and why I want to manage people, and he does it so naturally. People relate to the guy, and he does an amazing job in empathy and in equipping them for success. With a long history in film and in wheeling-and-dealing (similar to my own), Joe and I got along immediately.
Joe might not realize this, but he taught me a lot about how to interact with girls. Similar to Chris Palmer, I still find myself asking occasionally, “What Would Joe Sonheim Do?” Clearly, it hasn’t worked out for me quite yet, but he’s not to blame on that one.
Dr. Kelly Bonewell is the Pastor of Congregational Care at a large community church in Grand Rapids called Ada Bible. I called Kelly up cold one day, and even on that first phone call, there was a connection. We ended up meeting, and many coffees later, and I’ve come to owe much of my understanding of my spiritual problems to him. The Christian God is to be our friend. His grace is plentiful. We are not meant to be on our own.
If things are bad, Kelly is one to turn to. He is the author of At the End of All Our Exploring, which I am currently reading.
Key others: Abigail Kumar, Lisa Zaagman, Jaimi Swenson, Ryan Delk, Adam Salois, Anita Charles, Michael McCarthy, Vivake Baranwal, Chase Lee, HML
When you take a look at these, you see me. Who’s on your list? Or take it a step further; is there someone out there who’d put you on theirs?
“The ones who have the greatest impact are the ones who were the most available.”