Permission to live

Give yourself permission to fail, to overreach, to try.

Give yourself permission to be imperfect, wrong, weird.

Give yourself permission to do that thing you love, pursue your dream, take a different path.

I’m not saying to do anything wrong or immoral. I’m just saying that there are a lot of things that are good that we want but we won’t let ourselves do them because they’re new to us or they might seem odd to our friends or we’re afraid of what strangers might think or, worse, what we might think of ourselves.

But that’s ridiculous.

Too often we lock ourselves in the prisons we create. We shackle our futures by saying no to ourselves even before anyone ever thinks to deny us. Chains of “can’t” weigh us down before we’ve even tried. We strip ourselves of the life we want to live before it’s ever lived. We’ve stopped ourselves before we even begin to think about starting.

That. Must. Stop.

Give yourself permission to give yourself permission. You are the key; free yourself.

And start living.

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We started a podcast

So…a friend and I started a podcast.

There’s a lot of confessing, challenging, a bit of conflict, and a touch of cussing.

But most of all it’s a conversation between friends.

This project grew out of years of relationship and talking about our ventures and missteps and learnings and stories.

And we want to share them with you.

This podcast is a series of conversations about life, entrepreneurship, money, wellness.

But, really, it’s about improving our lives in midlife.

My friend’s name is Howard Lerner. He’s a great dude and entrepreneur and conversationalist. If you’re from St. Louis, you’ve likely heard of Kaldis Coffee. He started that company. After building it, he sold it.

Join us every week, as we put out a weekly episode. Here’s the latest one entitled Finding Midlife Motivation.

Feel free to ask us questions or give us topics you want to hear us discuss. And we welcome any feedback you might have. Contact me through this site or @itsjohnpa on Twitter or Instagram.

Find all of our episodes, and subscribe, on Spotify and check us out at www.howardandjohn.com.

Or if you want to watch us, go to YouTube to get the full facial experience. We don’t have the latest episode up yet, but you can watch one of our first versions.

Everyone, lastly, I just want to thank you for joining me on this journey. It’s almost weekly that I get to hear from someone that’s said they read my blog at one point or another, and that always makes me feel honored and grateful to feel connected to you somehow.

I love you. And I wish you the best as we continue this beautiful journey called life.

Lots of love,

John


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Cookies, covid, and a confession

Three words likely have never been seen together, but there they are, in the title, all alliterated, and weird. Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago we shipped the most amount of cookies since the start of our Clean Cookie Company, but covid slowed our shipments; and we’ve got to own the fact that our packaging sucks.

When we got a surge of orders, we thought that we might need to refund close to a grand worth of cookies because we had never shipped that many cookies and performed a last minute packaging change. Yes, refunding all of those orders would have tasted bitter but we were ready to do it or ship out another round of them.

But we didn’t have to. The cookies got to almost everyone. However, it wasn’t all perfection.

One person said that USPS notified her that her package arrived but there was nothing on the doorstep. We’re still trying to figure out what happened to those phantom cookies.

But most friends, from what we’ve heard, received theirs and enjoyed the taste. Some of the cookies were uglier than others because of the ninety degree summer heat. But they got there, and they tasted fresh, which was a relief.

Covid caused massive delays. USPS had staffing issues. And what should have taken two to three days took five to seven. Not ideal. But considering the circumstances (that we’re in a, you know, pandemic), we were grateful they arrived at all.

We were also grateful that refunds weren’t necessary. But now have a different problem.

You see, our packaging isn’t great. Actually it’s terrible. Sure, it keeps the cookies fresh, which is great, but the material isn’t.

We vacuum seal the cookies in baggy plastic bags, which feels like a parachute of plastic, when we ship them.

And while I’m sealing them, my six year old is lecturing me about how much plastic we are using and how we’re killing the environment and how it’s wrong. Every word feels like a stab, because he’s right. And we’ve received similar feedback from customers, friends.

The truth is is that we’ve eliminated a lot plastic in our home. We use silicone and glass and steel instead for storage. And there’s a part of me that wants to justify that that’s good enough. But it’s not. And just because those bags keep our cookies fresh and good for our customers doesn’t make it fresh and good for the environment. We recognize that.

So we may not be refunding our generous and good customers, but we are looking to return our plastic bags. At least we are researching the best alternatives so that we can be good to the earth and still send cookies that taste like heaven.

We don’t have a good answer yet.

But, we are committed to finding one.

The YouTube ad that made me cry

Last week, we were watching a video when the greatest YouTube ad I had ever seen appeared. We couldn’t stop watching it. The skip ad button turned on and I ignored it. The ad went on for seconds then minutes. Until it ended nineteen minutes later. (I know, it might feel weird reading about a YouTube ad, but it’s just as weird or weirder writing about one.)

What was the ad? It was a Charity Water video.

Charity Water is a nonprofit started by a guy named Scott Harris. And in the ad he told his story from his challenging childhood in the suburbs to becoming a nightclub promoter in New York City. He got paid to throw huge parties and be around beautiful people and drink. It was fun until wasn’t. Eventually he discovered he wanted something more. That led him to abandoning that thrilling life and paying a nonprofit so that he can go with them to third world countries to take pictures for them as they did humanitarian work. When he was there, he discovered people drinking the most heinous water. It was dirty, muddy, diseased, bug infested water. And they (mostly the women in those villages) would walk miles to bring it home even though it was unclean enough to kill and carrying it was backbreaking work. That’s when Scott found his calling and started Charity Water which has a mission to bring clean water to the 780 million people who don’t have access to clean water.

Huddled around our computer screen with us was our first born. He loves YouTube videos. We’re Dude Perfect subscribers. These days we’ve been watching ones with deep sea fishing on BlacktipH. But this YouTube ad did something different to our boy. He saw people’s pain and had compassion. He saw for the first time that too many children didn’t have something he took for granted ever day—clean water to drink. And that was not the only story in the video that moved him.

There was a 9 year old girl, Rachel, who gave up her birthday in hopes to raise $300 for the nonprofit. She didn’t reach her goal: she raised $220. But weeks later she died in a car accident. It was tragic. But from the ashes of tragedy arose a phoenix of hope. As news traveled about Rachel’s death, people and media noted how while she was alive she offered up her birthday to give clean water to others—and many were inspired. They gave hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, eventually more than a million dollars for the cause she sacrificed for just before she died.

I was crying. And my son says, “I want to give up my birthday. I want to give money.” And he ran off to get his piggy bank and wanted to give right then.

“Buddy we can’t jam dollars through the screen,” I said gently to him.

“Why not? I want to give right now,” he said adamantly.

It was beautiful.

In times like these, when brokenness and sadness reigns, there are still stories that can shift our paradigm and remind us how rich we are. We have clean water. I still have my child. We are alive.

We are richer than we know.

If you have a chance check out Charity Water.

It’ll make you want to jam your money through the screen.

Most of all it will help you see the world afresh.


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Cookie saga continues

Our cookies got to a couple of friends and they were good, not perfect, but still delicious. It was a huge relief.

See, in my last post I mentioned that we tried a new way of packaging our cookies and weren’t sure how they would turn out. We didn’t want to fail, and more importantly, we didn’t want to disappoint our friends.

Really, our goal is to delight people with cookies and make their days, weeks, maybe even months. We want to put out the best cookie possible, not just in taste but in ingredients and experience. But then, we ran into fulfillment and shipping and logistics.

And our decision to change packaging made our minds go someplace dark. We had these terrible visions of the cookies being uneatable, off, wrong, bad. And then thinking they were going to friends like that sent shivers through us.

But that didn’t happen, at least with these two.

One friend, Adriana, in Frisco, Texas showed them on Instagram and storied about them. She was so excited and generous with how she spoke about them. It was all in Spanish, so I didn’t know how generous she was. But with my limited understanding that was very rusty and buried in the recesses in my mind from my two years of high school Spanish classes, I parsed out that the outcome was good. Later, she told us in a private conversation that she appreciated them and thought they tasted great.

Another friend, Dan, who lives in Washington State close to Seattle recommended our baked wares on Facebook and said some similarly kind and generous words. And he also gave some warm private words and very helpful feedback.

And what they both said about the condition of the cookies made us happy; but, more than that, we were relieved. It was like a huge boulder of worry that was on our chests was lifted after we got their feedback that the cookies traveled ok.

Now, we continue to wait. There are still many packages out there. And the surge of the virus is causing shipping delays with USPS; so, there’s that.

Waiting is one of the hardest things about life. It’s shrouded in uncertainty. These days are full of that. The expectations, fears, hopes all lie before us. And many of them are already set with nothing for us to do. And isn’t that the hardest part—the surrendering? It feels like an eternity. But it must be had and endured and experienced to do anything in life, especially something of consequence. It’s the suspenseful closing of one chapter before turning to the next. So here we are, as we turn the page, taking a pause, before the truth is revealed.

Regardless, we surrender to the outcome with prayer and expectation as others receive their boxes.

And as much as there is some pain in the waiting, there is also hope.

Stay well, my friends.

One last thought, we are open to any and all feedback. If you have some seriously negative thoughts, please send them our way. Of course we love the positive stuff too, but don’t hold back on the hard words. We need them, too.

As always, with love,
John


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The good, the bad, the cookie

Yesterday we baked and shipped 240 cookies that same day. It’s the highest count so far in the short life of our little company, Clean Cookie Co.

With our kids crying and needing food, uncertainties around fulfillment, the clock ticking down, and the sheer mountain of cookies, nonetheless, we made it.

Don’t get me wrong, we were grateful for it—all of it—it just wasn’t easy. Actually it was incredibly challenging.

Our daily routine was halted. My wife started baking early, like 3am early. I didn’t do my usual work. Cookies was all we did. All we could do. It was all hands on dough. Even our six year old chipped in by feeding our baby. It was mayhem.

Then there were the non-cookie, cookie issues. We had to keep all of the orders straight. We hated the idea of missing anyone. So spreadsheets were made and cross checked. Formulas were even used. “Who had vegan and non-vegan cookies?…Are you sure?” was asked multiple times.

That was hard; this was harder: packaging. Previously, we had shipped to others on the coasts, west and east, and customers and friends said they were good. But we wanted it to be better. So we tried a new way we’ve never tried before. It took a lot more work and made the cookies uglier, but we thought it would improve freshness for their trek to all parts of the country.

(To anyone who ordered, please let us know your feedback. And if there was a problem, let us know so we can find a way to make it right.)

Most of the orders for this heap of cookies came from friends. And we wanted it to be right, special, loving.

To be real real, we have no idea if they will be. And it’s nerve racking, really.

That’s the thing about starting a business or doing anything outside of your comfort zone; sometimes it’s not comfortable, at all. In fact, it can be straight up uncomfortable.

So after a full day of cookie-ing, we wait.

We wait for the shipments to get to you. We wait for you to eat them. We wait for your feedback.

We’ve enjoyed serving you, finding solutions to problems we never imagined solving, making more cookies than we ever thought possible, and packaging them up to send throughout our nation, from our kitchen to your tables.

And our hope is that they taste like home to you.


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Why we started a cookie business

Sometimes when things are terrible it’s necessary to start something delightful.

So last month my wife and I started a cookie business.

It’s an online store that sells gourmet gluten-free and vegan freshly baked cookies. They are made from incredible ingredients: organic this and organic that. And they are delicious. I’m the taste tester, so I should know.

But bragging aside, the main point of making something tasty is to spread just a little bit of joy to overcome the daily pains that seem to be mounting every day.

We get it. Kids are cooped up. The future is uncertain. The economy is struggling. News is the news, always negative. Schools are thinking about opening and we don’t know what to do. The second wave is swelling to who knows how high. And all of us are getting swept up into it and we are going for a ride to who knows where. It’s terrifying. All of it.

But taking a bite into a chocolate chip cookie floods us with memories of childhood, simpler times, summer bake sales, laughter, mom—home. It’s just love, baked.

That’s what we wanted to make, except in our fashion.

Our family has crazy dietary restrictions. We can’t eat gluten since we have major intolerances, and we have all kinds of sensitivities. My wife has been eating essentially the same limited foods every day, for every meal—literally. Our eldest can’t eat gluten and a whole host of other foods. And I find most meats make me feel badly and eat vegan most of the time, but for those rare occasions where I scarf down a ribeye. In other words, we eat crazy clean. No processed foods, refined sugar, etc. here. Don’t get me wrong. I want to eat Doritos, Krispy Kream donuts, Oreos. But I know I will feel terrible afterwards. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

So we wanted to create something we and all of our friends and humans could feel good eating. Because, there’s enough feeling bad these days. And this is not just about feeling better emotionally, but good physically. That’s why we use the ingredients that we do. They’re great so we can feel good, in every way.

But if you want to know the truth, my wife has never even tasted our cookies. Not one. It’s because her food restrictions are so tight she can’t even try them, right now. She bakes them. She loves baking. But she can’t enjoy them. We are hoping that eventually she’ll be able to bite into the slightly-crunchy-with-a-gooey-center-packed-with-chocolate-chips beauts of a treat, someday, soon.

Nonetheless, she does take great pleasure in others enjoying her little creations. She delights in the knowledge that her joy inducing circles of chocolaty bliss brings others delight. That’s joy for her, for our family.

We started this venture at the end of May and we’ve been working out the kinks. It’s been fun. It began as an experiment, us playing around. Then orders came in. Not too many at first. But these, too, acted like waves. For the first week or so, most days were quiet with little activity. Then we’d get a sale here, a delivery there. Then one day in early June we had a large swell crash on us. Things went bonkers. And we started to wonder if we had something, something real.

Yesterday we posted on social media to our friends unsure what kind of reception we would get. And it was amazing. We had our biggest day of sales to date. We were astonished at the response and generosity. I mean, our cookies aren’t cheap. But people bought. Some kept buying. And they were gifting to this person and that person who lived on the west coast and out east and to a neighbor down the road or across the street. It was incredible.

To any of you who were a part of yesterday’s frenzy and are reading this, we love you, and we can’t wait for you to get a mouthful of this goodness.

So, friends, neighbors, and fellow humans, I’ll give more details of our journey and lessons and failures going forward, as well as other non-cookie related thoughts.

But for now, I’ll be delivering your cookies and sending them to USPS, with nothing but deliciously joyful thoughts and prayers and love that will show up at your doorstep. It’s not a hug, but it might be better.

Because, you know, when times are bitter, sometimes all you need is something sweet.

If you want to check us out, you can find us at www.cleancookieco.com and @cleancookieco on Facebook and Instagram.

Lots of love,
John and Rachel


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You are not an imposter

You’re not an imposter; you’re just in-process.

You might be a father learning to parent, an employee who is progressing in your career, an entrepreneur hustling to survive, or a couple trying to forge a healthy marriage. That’s good; that’s great.

Life is a process.

Anytime you try something, do something, go somewhere, you’re not going to be an expert, specialist, authority, master.

And it’s easy to feel like you don’t belong, like you’re “faking it.” But you’re not.

For anyone to become a master, you have to be a beginner. You have to muddle through, practice, attempt, fail, then try again and improve.

You’re in-process.

There’s nothing more real than that.

Even experts still need to learn and feel like imposters, because we’re all continuing to learn, grow, and become.

See, to do anything, everyone is an “imposter.” Everyone is between a beginner and expert, student and teacher, birth and death.

And that’s a great place to be. That’s where the adventure is, learnings are found, discoveries are made—life is lived.

So just because you don’t know as much as you want to or feel out of your depth or lack clarity on the future, that doesn’t make you lesser.

It just means you’re on a great journey to better things.

The key is to keep moving forward.


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A better tomorrow is a choice

Your past isn’t you; and your future is always being made in the present.

You’re walking potential. You’re becoming. You’re changing, growing, evolving.

That is, if you choose to be.

You’re not simply who everyone thinks you are. You’re not stuck. You’re not just you.

Decide to make new relationships, form new habits, develop new practices, and amazing things will happen.

Sure, it’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable, challenging, difficult.

But it’s not impossible. It’s within reach. Stretch for it.

And if you do, there is one thing that surely won’t happen. And it’s this.

Regret.

This is the best way to succeed

Failure isn’t an event; it’s a state of mind. No one is truly a failure unless they give up.

I’m not talking about quitting because sometimes you need to quit in order to succeed. Not every venture is worth your time: Sometimes you try something and you find that it’s not working, so it’s good to quit.

To “give up” or failure means that you surrender to the difficulties of life and resign to the sense that “You can’t do it,” any of it—life.

But if you’re still trying and kicking, you aren’t that. You’re just in process.

The key now is to keep at it.

Did you know that Colonel Sanders (a real person) of Kentucky Fried Chicken, didn’t start his famous “finger lickin’ good” franchise until he was in his sixties?

Yeah—true story.

Before getting in the chicken business, he worked all kinds of jobs. And he was a piece of work, ornery and difficult to deal with. He was even fired for knocking out his co-workers.

But he never gave up. He kept going even though he was older, at an age when he should have been thinking about retirement. But he didn’t retire. He fought. Not just with his fists, but he carried on with his mind, gumption, capital, life.

If you keep on living, trying, fighting, you always have a chance of climbing, growing, succeeding.

Keep that in mind and put that into practice and you can’t help but succeed.


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Use this Amazon affiliate link to buy this book I recommend or anything you normally would (dog-food, diapers, deodorant—you know) in 24 hours, and that will create a magic for me. Thank you!!