alex hoffer in office

Last Post of 2019: This is the Way

An early episode of the new Disney + series, The Mandalorian, features a scene where the main protagonist (aptly called the Mandalorian or “Mando”) is reunited underground with other mandalorians (bounty hunters). During their interaction, it becomes clear that one of the founding sayings of the group is: “this is the way.”

This got me thinking…

Two millennia ago, a group of people banded together in much different circumstances than the ones brilliantly portrayed in the Mandalorian. Unlike bounty hunters, however, these people were the hunted and not the hunters. Their circumstances were also anything but fiction.

In fact, some lost their lives following “the way.”

Now, back in the present, faith gets defined in such ways that are not only unhelpful but also untrue. As strange as it sounds to modern ears, these followers of “the way” claimed to follow something they saw with their own eyes. In other words, this was not wishful thinking, or believing in something unseen. Their claim was that they were following someone they saw raised from the dead.

While it IS possible this was all “made up,” while it IS possible that all those who lost their lives for this were in collusion with one another, let’s not call anything about it “blind.” For these people knew exactly what they were doing, one way or the other. And in the end, this little group of poor, rag-tag, followers of “the way,” eventually outlasted the entire Roman Empire.

Not bad for a group following something made up. Or as John Ortberg has pointed out, isn’t it strange that we name our kids Paul and our dogs Nero in present day?

To be sure, my aim is not to become preachy writing this blog. But as Christmas approaches, I also want to shed light, even a momentary one, on the claims of those that followed Jesus when Jesus walked the earth.

Here are some questions to consider:

Why were some of the earliest followers willing to sacrifice their lives?

Why did one of the Gospel accounts share that some doubted Jesus’ resurrection?

Why are people all over the globe still willing to suffer, even die, for this message?

Why did Jesus have to come in the first place?

I have been contemplating these questions this season, and invite you to as well.

Is this the way?

Is he worth following?

These are still the questions of life.

My prayer is that some of you choose to examine these questions in 2020. Jesus welcomes all.

And to all, whether you are of faith, a different faith altogether, or even questioning all the above, I wish you and yours health, safety, and happiness in 2020.

Editor’s note: Baldinbusiness is a place where all ideas are welcome. Therefore, I won’t shy away from topics like faith. Still, the primary focuses of the blog are leadership and personal growth. My aims are to be authentic, vulnerable, and encouraging. Success is hearing readers tell me that the blog helped them in some form or fashion. If you want more encouragement in your life, please subscribe so new posts can come directly into your inbox. Subscribers benefit me by helping me understand who my audience is, and by not relying so heavily on social media “likes.” Throughout the process of posting BIB on social, I have discovered that many of the people hitting “like” do not even read the content of what they are “liking.” That is probably a post for 2020 in itself. The point is that I want to create content that helps and encourages those actually reading this blog. Thanks for help to that end.

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open bible


#TheoThursday is an “almost-weekly” post that examines how the Bible shapes all aspects of life, including leadership. I will share my personal applications from the week’s readings, and maybe make a few comedic musings (THAT is in the Bible!?). I hope some will join me in this pursuit. To learn more, download the CCC Life app and click the “Bible Savvy” tab at the bottom of the homepage.

This week’s reading: Jeremiah chapters 22-25 , Matthew chapters 14-16:12, Psalm 119:1-156

My top application as a leader: The story of John the Baptist’s beheading (Matthew 14) is followed by one of Jesus’ most known miracles (the feeding of the 5,000). What is striking, however, is that after learning about John’s death, Jesus withdrew to solitude. In fact, I noticed a pattern in Matthew 14 of solitude (v13), healing (v14), miracle (v18-21), more solitude and prayer (v23-24), and finally more miracles –with Peter walking on water (v25-36). While much can, and should, be made of the disciples lack of faith –can’t you relate, the man was walking on water!–what struck me this week was the discipline of solitude Jesus kept. He did hard, even miraculous, work. But, this was buffeted around two times of solitude and prayer. I would do well to do likewise.

My top application as a husband/father: Will, Ben, and I talked Monday night about Matthew 15:18: “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and those defile them.” The example I used to explain this was the cynical words that came out my mouth last Sunday watching the Bears game. I was frustrated by how the offense was playing, and as I watched the game made cynical comments. I asked the boys if this was right. They correctly answered that it was not. I told them that I asked Jesus to forgive my cynical judgment of people that I don’t truly know. I also asked God to heal my judgmentalism towards others. We then talked about some of the words they had used recently and whether they were right. Both could see that words really matter. My takeaway here is that I have to remember that I have little eyes watching my actions all the time as a dad. I should act accordingly, especially while watching football.

Who should read these chapters? Matthew 14-15 are for those needing some hope in a bitter, dark, world. Hope has come.

What was funny or surprising about what you read? God gets a bad wrap in the Old Testament for being strict. People thinking that should read Jeremiah 25:3: “For twenty-three years -from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day -the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.” 23 years of warning is hardly strict. God is rather “long-suffering.”

*Editor’s note: There won’t be a #theothursday next week. Stay tuned till October 24. Also, I’d love feedback. Is this post interesting, helpful? Or, should I scrap it?

Do you find reading the Bible intimidating? Or, do you have no idea where to even begin? If so, I would encourage you to check-out the The Bible Project, which utilizes cartoons (CARTOONS!) to explain the contents of the Bible.

#TheoThursday Read More »

open bible


#TheoThursday is an “almost-weekly” post that examines how the Bible shapes all aspects of life, including leadership. I will share my personal applications from the week’s readings, and maybe make a few comedic musings (THAT is in the Bible!?). I hope some will join me in this pursuit. To learn more, download the CCC Life app and click the “Bible Savvy” tab at the bottom of the homepage.

This week’s reading: Jeremiah chapters 18-22 , Matthew chapters 12:22-13:58, Psalm 118

My top application as a leader: I was struck by Jeremiah’s words from the LORD to Shallum, son of Josiah: “Woe to him who builds his palace on unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor” (22:13). Jeremiah then compares this with how Shallum’s father, Josiah behaved, “he defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me, declares the LORD” (22:16). What a striking example of being someone worth following. I would do well to care for the cause of the poor and needy.

My top application as a husband/father: We talk with the kids often about having a joyful heart and being grateful for what we have. Psalm 118’s repetition of “his love endures forever” (5x) reminds of this. Then there is verse 6, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?” David, the author of the Psalm, knows a thing or two about being on the run from people wanting kill him. So, these aren’t “feel good” words, but life-lived words. His joyful heart, despite circumstances, is instructive.

Who should read these chapters? Those needing a reminder that behind every immigrant, every poor person, and every widow, is a human-being loved by God.

What was funny or surprising about what you read? Returning again to Jeremiah 22, referring this time to another one of Josiah’s sons (Jehoiakim) Jeremiah instructs, “He will have the burial of a donkey –dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem” (22:19). This dude isn’t messing around!!!

Do you find reading the Bible intimidating? Or, do you have no idea where to even begin? If so, I would encourage you to check-out the The Bible Project, which utilizes cartoons (CARTOONS!) to explain the contents of the Bible.

#TheoThursday Read More »

open bible


#TheoThursday is an “almost-weekly” post that examines how the Bible shapes all aspects of life, including leadership. I will share my personal applications from the week’s readings, and maybe make a few comedic musings (THAT is in the Bible!?). I hope some will join me in this pursuit. To learn more, download the CCC Life app and click the “Bible Savvy” tab at the bottom of the homepage.

This week’s reading 9/21-27: Jeremiah chapters 14-19 , Matthew chapter 12, Proverbs 8

My top application as a leader: I am reminded from the CCC app linked above that “Jeremiah’s job as a prophet is to speak on behalf of God, and give God’s perspective on current situations and call people to respond in a way that fits with the way God sees things.” Therefore, it must have taken serious courage for him to speak God’s message to the people of Judah in Chapters 14-17. My job, therefore, is to be courageous and speak the truth in love.

My top application as a husband/father: The section in Jeremiah 17:19-27 about “keeping the Sabbath holy,” is challenging on all fronts. Sarah needs me to be rested, and so do the kids. Too often lately I have been jet-lagged, worn out, and tired. This equates to me being grumpy, and no one wins when I am grumpy, myself especially. I need to keep the Sabbath Day Holy.

Who should read these chapters? Perhaps the skeptical: Matthew 12:15-21.

What was funny or surprising about what you read? Many people think only of Jesus as the loving God/man he was and is. He can also talk a little “trash” like when the Pharisees were challenging him in Matthew 12. I suspect the question in verse 3 is meant to be rhetorical. After all, shouldn’t the religious leaders know Scripture? The “haven’t you read” question made me chuckle on one hand, and also challenged me on the other. Like Jesus, I need to do good always (which happened to be what we talked about at the dinner table when reading this passage Tuesday night). Doing good matters, even on the Sabbath. As I told the boys, if our neighbor needs my help during the Sabbath, I need to get off my butt and help them!

Do you find reading the Bible intimidating? Or, do you have no idea where to even begin? If so, I would encourage you to check-out the The Bible Project, which utilizes cartoons (CARTOONS!) to explain the contents of the Bible.

#TheoThursday Read More »

outstretched hand in black and white

#TheoThursday: Leadership Prayers

Want to be a leader, which is someone others follow? Here are three non-negotiable traits. Being a #TheoThursday post, I’ll frame these as prayer requests because they originated in a text-exchange early one morning between Nate (a subscriber and reader of BIB) and myself.

Pray for the courage to do what is necessary. To be someone worth following, you need to be characterized by action. Thus, you need courage every single day. The eyes of the organization are on you, and your fellow leaders, to act. This inevitably involves hard decisions (“doing what is necessary”), which requires even more courage.

Pray for wisdom to make change feel safe. To be someone worth following, you need to move the organization from “here” to “there.” Change is inevitable, and it is inevitable that people will resist it. This is because we are hard-wired to resist change. All of us! Our brains seek safety and security. Thus, to be someone worth following, we need wisdom to make change feel safe. While this admittedly sounds soft, what I am advocating is nothing of the kind. Leaders need to listen to input, clarify exactly where the organization is going, and be clear on the kind people needed to get there. Resistance is often a call for the leader to be clearer and more exact so that the expectations are known. The unknown is risky, and even scary. Knowing what’s coming, rather, makes people feel safe.

Pray for the joy found only in Christ, the kind that is not dependent on circumstances, or “having” a good day. Some of my readers are not Christians, so allow me to elaborate before turning me off. To be someone worth following, you need to have a resounding hope outside of the business, organization, or whatever it is that you are leading. This is because so much of life / whatever you are leading, is outside of your control. For your mood to be dependent on circumstances, or “having” a good day, inside whatever it is you are leading, is akin to a short-term investment in the most volatile of stocks. The rate of return is simply all over the map, and so are your moods if you are depending on circumstances to dictate them. To be someone worth following, your moods simply cannot fluctuate that dramatically. This, too, will make people feel unsafe. So, you need to fill your bucket somewhere less dependent on circumstances.

For me that somewhere is in my trust of Jesus. I trust him because he has proven trustworthy to me. He is also vastly misunderstood. Two thousand years later, especially in the West, his message seems to regularly get dumb-downed to some version of “do this, or believe in this, so that you get the comforts of the good life.” But as he told his disciples, following him isn’t easy, and would even lead to trouble. My favorite verse to this end (which comes at the end of him telling his disciples that they soon be grieving his death) is, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

I have found life and leadership to be this way, the way that inevitably involves trouble. The world isn’t the way God intended, and we can all look at the news, let alone our own lives, to see it. Yet, there is a rescue plan in process. All are welcome to join. Everyone. Especially you.

So, this is my occasional reminder that I am always willing to meet for coffee, or talk on the phone, if something in this post has piqued your interest about Jesus.

His invitation is for everyone.

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outstretched hand in black and white

#TheoThursday: The Reality of Self-Doubt

I mentioned in an earlier post that I recently heard criticism about how I am leading the company from someone at an event our team attended. In sharing this criticism with my accountability partner, he advised not to turn this blog into a response to the critic. I share this because the experience got me thinking about criticism in general. Why does some criticism bother me, while some doesn’t? And more aptly to what is to follow in this post, why do I allow voice to arguably the greatest critic in my life, my inner self-doubt?

The truth about me is that the greatest hater, biggest doubter, and strongest resistance, is often the voice inside my own head. It is the voice that says I am only in the position that I am in because of my last name. It is the voice that says that I am not well-liked in one breath, and then shames me for wanting to be more liked in the next.

It is often the voice of the past, reminding me of some of the stupid things I did before I came to faith in Jesus. If the latter part of that sentence makes you feel uncomfortable, know that the voice also reminds me of the things I have done wrong since. While humility, especially the kind that thinks less about myself and more about others is admirable; the problem with this voice is that it is anything but true humility because it thrives on consuming more about self. Of course, this fascination with self is tied to all the negative views already shared, but the point here is that it is still self-based. This battle, and it really is a daily battle, is always being waged. So, you might see me and think that I have it “all figured out or put together.” This is a public admission, however, that not only is that untrue…but that in actuality I am a mess inside.

Making matters more complicated, when turning to towards the future, this voice often plays a bi-polar role in my psyche as it both under- and over-estimates what can be accomplished. The ego, which occasionally lends its ugly hand into the figurative mixer that is my head, wants to know that it will be honored in the future. As pathetic as that realization is, it often is followed with the voice reminding me of all the previous short-comings. The ego wasn’t soothed before, the voice reminds. And onward the self-doubt cycle continues.

This is why, I believe, no amount of “self-help” books will ever cure what ails me because “self” is the problem in the first place.

All the aforementioned thoughts in this post were going through my head a few days ago at the gym when these lyrics hit my ears:

Rend Collective – Rescuer

There is good news for the captive
Good news for the shamed
There is good news for the one who walked away
There is good news for the doubter
The one religion failed
For the Good Lord has come to seek and save

He’s our rescuer
He’s our rescuer
We are free from sin forevermore
Oh how sweet the sound
Oh how grace abounds
We will praise the Lord our rescuer

He is beauty for the blind man
Riches for the poor
He is friendship for the one the world ignores
He is pasture for the weary
Rest for those who strive
Oh, the Good Lord is the way, the truth, the life
Yes the Good Lord is the way, the truth, the life

He’s our rescuer (hey)
He’s our rescuer (hey)

My solution, therefore, will forever be outside of self. Thank God for the rescuer and for his abounding, and chainless, grace.

Be quiet self-doubt because I was worthy of rescuing.

So is everyone reading this post.

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outstretched hand in black and white

#TheoThursday: Leading by Listening

The book of James was written by Jesus’ half-brother, James. The book of John (7:2-5) shares that James did not at first believe in Jesus’ divinity, but after witnessing the resurrection he did. He then became a leader in the messianic mother church in Jerusalem (Acts 12,15). This was one of, if not the very first, Christian communities ever. Adhering to the teachings of Jesus, and sharing the truth of the resurrection with others, this community immediately faced persecution, famine, and poverty. Eventually, as the Jewish historian Josephus accounts in Antiquities of the Jews, James, along with many of the members of this early community, was stoned to death for their faith in Jesus.

I share this context to shed light on this famous Bible verse written by James:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be QUICK TO LISTEN, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” James 1:19 (emphasis mine).

Imagine for a moment you are reading this letter from James in the first century. Just before this, James begins the letter encouraging the readers to “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). In the midst of the aforementioned persecution, famine, and poverty, the readers of the letter might be tempted to think: “Really, James? Consider these circumstances pure joy? Moreover, you want us to be ‘quick to listen’ rather than being quick to fight back! Our anger is the ‘righteous’ kind after all!”

Anger is a large topic for another discussion, the point here being that James’ counsel, to be “slow to become angry,” was wise not only in the first century, but remains wise today. We are always better revisiting a hard conversation when emotions have cooled—and we are definitely best not firing off emails, texts, or tweets, when we are hot! Before giving into these human temptations, James advises we should be quick to listen.

Fast forward to our day. All workers, leaders included, live in a day bombarded with digital distractions, constant connectivity, and incessant demands. Arguably, “being quick to listen,” has never been more difficult, and has never been more needed. So, everyone, leaders in particular, need to intentionally listen.

Let’s use the context of meetings as an example — a recent topic on Bald in Business – listening is arguably the characteristic that distinguishes the leader from the follower in the room. I make this claim because it takes intentionality to listen, understand, and weigh, the opinions and feedback of other people. By listening to others, leaders begin to embody the trait of a leader that people want to follow. There is assurance in following someone that listens to you, especially one who embodies “being quick to listen” like James advised. And without followers, you simply are not a leader. So, if you claim to be a leader, you better be listening to what others have to say or risk becoming someone not worth following in the first place.

Of course, we leaders won’t always get this right. I was called out for being on my phone during meetings last year. In essence, my follower was saying “listen to me” instead of your email! I listened to the feedback, and changed my behavior. What great advice!

In closing, we live in a day and age where any person can spew an opinion. It takes guts, discipline, and intentionality, to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Model these and you will distinguish yourself as someone others want to follow.

I suspect James did, which is why others followed him, even to the point of stoning.

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black and white historical photo of hoffer plastics

The Leader (should) Look Up.

I often write about looking down. I’m a believer that the leader of an organization needs to understand what is happening on the production floor, inside the business, and understand all the inner-dynamics of the organization.

But the leader also needs to look up.

In March, I was at our kids’ school gala. It was Friday night after a long week, and I would have rather been at home winding down from what had become a long and busy day. What made the day a little different from other long and busy days was the emotional edge that came with it. It was the 66th anniversary of the founding of Hoffer Plastics, which always brings a mix of happiness, joy, and honestly, a longing for my grandparents. But attending was not only the right thing to do, it also put a smile on Sarah’s face. So, I attended. Mid-way through the dinner a stranger came up to me and struck up a conversation. I vaguely recognized this person, but couldn’t place them.

“Thank you for being a good neighbor,” he began. My mind raced through its rolodex, yet I couldn’t place living by him. His next statement made me realize he was referring to the business, not our home.

“Hoffer Plastics has been a good neighbor for all these years,” he continued. “In fact, when I moved in your grandfather came over to my house and introduced himself. Before leaving he told me to speak up and let him know if we ever needed anything. I jokingly replied that we could use some of that dirt –you guys were building an addition at the time. He then left and went on his way. The next day, however, a man showed up at our door, and he informed us that your grandfather authorized that we could get as much dirt as we wanted. We were dumbstruck.”

So was I.

My grandfather has been gone since 2007, and here I was at an event that I didn’t really want to be at because I was tired, on the day of our 66th anniversary as a company no less, hearing another story about his goodness as a man and leader.

My response back was a little on the emotional side. I told him that he had just given me an unexpected gift. Only God provides unexpected little gifts like these. As I left him, I said a quick “thank you God” prayer.

When I got back to the table, I told Sarah about this exchange. “Your grandfather was always looking up,” she said. “You have quite an example to live up to.”

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to being task oriented. Like most people, I have a job with various time-sucking demands. The temptation is to keep my head down and work.

But, when have I knocked on someone’s door in our community? When I have served those in the neighborhood around Hoffer Plastics?

I’ll admit it. Never. Not once.

But Grandpa Hoffer – from what I’ve gathered from this exchange and many others just like this one, made time for looking up.

This spring, I will honor Grandpa Hoffer by challenging myself to look up. I want to see, and serve, the community around me as well as the people inside the walls of Hoffer Plastics. Out with the tasks, in with looking up.

Leadership is more than realizing some numeric goal, or executing some commercial strategy. While these things matter, leadership is first about improving the lives of human beings. In order to do this, the leader has to look up and see the people, especially those in need, around them.

Thank you for the reminder Grandpa.

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photo album with historical photos

#TheoThursday: Wishing things were like Yesterday

I don’t know about you, but I seem to have an innate ability to remember how good things used to be. My golf game was incredible in 1999, and so was my hair. While I am continuing to work hard on the former, I got rid of the latter before Bill Clinton left office! But this thinking isn’t restricted to our personal memories. In fact, I see this happening a lot in business, where many leaders reminisce about the “good old days,” while grumbling about current problems.

The book of Exodus tells the narrative of how the Israelites left Egypt, where they were enslaved, and how they spent 40 years in the wilderness waiting to enter the Promised Land. As the narrative progresses, and God exacts his mighty power through Moses, Pharaoh eventually is convinced to “let [His] people go.”One would expect jubilation from the Israelites. If there was any, it didn’t last long. By Exodus 16 we read these words: “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3).

The Israelites were basically desiring to go back to the “good old days.” You know, where they (supposedly) had pots of food, but were also enslaved and had no rights whatsoever. A little ironic they left the whole being enslaved part out of their rant, isn’t it?

Misremembering reality is one problem with looking back. Another can be summed up by this quote from Chuck Swindoll: “We look back nostalgically on what once was a pleasant situation, at which time (even then!) we were looking back longingly on a more pleasant earlier time.” In other words, 2039 Alex will–hopefully–someday look back to 2019 and long for all the fun (it is fun?) that I am experiencing right now.

It turns out we all have a little longing for “Egypt” in us, don’t we?

Please note two disclaimers here: First, problems are problems. They need to be discussed. However, in the heat of the moment, fixating on them, grumbling about them, can tempt us to misremember some other time as being better than it was. This is human, and yet, unproductive at best, and harmful at worst. Yesterday is not coming back, so let’s focus on dealing with current circumstances rather than longing for a fictitious version of the past.

Disclaimer number two is that certain things about the past were legitimately “better.” A buddy of mine no longer has his father around. Thus, any emotions he has towards his father, and the longing to be reunited, are obviously legitimate. And remembering happy days from the past with his dad is a wonderful thing. My friend is able to embrace those feelings and memories, while still pressing on with hope, and truly enjoying his present circumstances and other family members. He is choosing not to grumble about the sadness he has experienced—that type of bitter “reminiscing” is not very productive or helpful.

As leaders, we will certainly face followers who are tempted to grumble. Our challenge is to set the tone by not being one of them. We can always honor, and even celebrate, the past. But, let’s not fixate on it. As Pastor Shodankeh Johnson says, “The good old days are often a combination of a bad memory and good imagination!”

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