Twenty six years ago, in a shag carpet basement of a Sears kit bungalow with red Formica countertops, I started a little business. It quickly moved from I to WE. The people inside that WE are my highest focus– how do you express inexpressible gratitude? There must be a way. I’ll update you when I figure it out. 

This last quarter, we crossed a milestone I never even considered, let alone set out for: ONE BILLION DOLLARS in sales. Whew. 

Let’s put this in some perspective: One billion is one dollar multiplied by one thousand dollars multiplied by one million other dollars. If you piled up one billion pages of Lewke Partner’s real estate contracts, the stack of paper would be as high as a 43,333 Story Building. At 14 feet per floor, that means the building is 606,662 feet tall. In contrast, the Sears Tower is 110 stories – 1451 feet tall. And they call that a “skyscraper.” 

So, just to be clear, that’s what happened here—WE built an impossible building. 

Here’s my take on how this happened: 

  1. Today, as you read this sentence, some 3.6 BILLION people, that’s 45% of the world’s population, have no access to safe toilets. Knowing this is ESSENTIAL to

our success. We are stone-cold sober about our blessings, and you DO NOT become part of our WE unless you know and live this truth. 

  1. I never went to college. I was no good at learning shit I didn’t care about, and that single decision allowed me to start businesses early in life without 

preconceptions, rules, or even a point of view. Being young, scrappy, and naive as fuck allowed me to do, say, and be things that otherwise could not have been possible. I continue to count this decision as one of my crowning achievements. I remained free. ( side note: I’m just finishing an MBA program, and I’ve never been more sure that only the actual work will teach you how to do something) 

  1. I HATE positive thinking. I LOVE positive doing. 
  2. Read on… (I’m sick and tired of our limited focus and the suggestion that everything we say needs to fit into a tweet, so I’m gonna just say what I want to say in as many words as I feel like using to say it, read it or not, lol ) 

When I was 10, while other kids built pinewood derby cars and played baseball at The Y, I was pretending to build businesses and thinking about how to have things work together effectively.

I was 17 years old when I received my last paycheck. That’s as long as I could stand not executing my own ideas. The desire to create my own thing became too big to contain. Since then, every penny I’ve made or lost has been chiefly a result of my own intentions… initially with my own effort and ideas, then as things grew, with amazing people around me to help drive forward our collective passion, innovation, and craziness. 

In part, this is why I hate the term “self-employed”. In my experience, “Self” anything is mostly crap. The only way I use the word “self” is when it comes to motivation—people I know who build amazing things don’t typically have the same motivation as others… it’s more internal, from themselves. It can’t die. It’s never lost. It does tire and strain, however it has a resiliency you can count on. 

I am motivated by a burning inside me that I can’t extinguish. It wakes me up at night totally jacked on a new idea, a new way to approach something to make things work, and a framework to execute it. This burning in me is totally protected from the whims of others. 

I love making things work. 

If something cool doesn’t wake you up at night, keep looking because real passion waits for nothing. The things that wake you up are the things that create significant change. It’s like a hunger that can’t be satisfied.

Everything is opportunity. Opportunity to grow or build or innovate or create or learn. I can turn almost any idea into a business. I’ve had ideas that have lost me lots of dollars and nearly wiped me out…. But something inside me never gives up. Thankfully, I’ve had a few ideas that have made the losses harder to remember. 

I can get knocked down so hard that I see stars. Within hours, I’m constantly climbing back up, re-inspired, and motivated. I’m hell-bent on the craziest ideas to do the wildest things and make the world work a little better. 

I do not ever remember a day when I wasn’t thinking about making things better. 

A good night’s sleep is seriously dangerous for me. If I’m rested up, brace yourself. It’s like a song inside a songwriter that must come out, a painter with a blank canvas… business to me is precisely the same. 

However, it’s my experience that this wiring inside me is not usual. People don’t seem to be as endearing to “business artists” as they are to painters or musicians. If you asked a thousand people to rank jobs in terms of “nobility,” you’d find teachers, nurses, and humanitarian workers. It’s not likely you’d see “salesman” or “businessman” on the list… In fact, I find many people adverse to business—especially in the areas I love most.

A while back, in an effort to thank and honor a community that had really helped me and our business, I helped build this amazing Community Center and Art School— We’ve touched thousands of kids’ lives, impacting the community enormously and making the world a better place because of this school. But most people involved said, “Don’t make it about the money. “… “Stop being so business-oriented. “… They constantly said things like, “Let’s not charge; we’re community-based. ” 

My dear friend Bhante Sujatha is a businessman, teacher, and Buddhist monk, all in the same guy. He teaches and speaks worldwide and has a Meditation Center, The Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple, that offers so much to the community and world. He hosts workshops, talks, and seminars nearly every day—- he provides a wide range of deep learning—stuff that dramatically changes people’s lives. He gives and gives and gives, and the people know firsthand that they’ve received something significant. His life and temple are run entirely on donations. And, he finds the same struggle and similar comments from people: “Don’t charge for that “… “You’re so business oriented. Are you just doing this for the money? “… “Stop asking people for so much”… “You aren’t supposed to be a businessman..” 

We often take long walks and talk about these things. We are both deeply committed to making the world better, and we are both business guys. We simply don’t see the contradiction—in fact, we believe they are entirely vital companions.

The Art School and his meditation center do not exist without business; we’re thankful for it. We see nothing shameful in earning resources to sustain our efforts. We are both dumbfounded when people shun us, try to quit us, or believe we’re somehow in it “for the money.” Of course we are. Absolutely. We’re in it for the money. How else do the doors stay open? How on earth do you have heat in the cold Midwest winters? How do the toilets flush? Being “in it for the money” allows the whole place to be “in it.” We’re actually “in it” for the betterment of the world, and we know that resources are required to ensure that happens. Numbers are the language of business. Plain and simple. 

But I’ll tell you—these feelings are radical. People are often offended by both of us. It’s just not here in our organizations; these feelings are shared all over the place. We quietly nod as people try to dissuade us. We work on nonjudgment and practice compassion, then get down to the task. We run our businesses so that our businesses can effect change in the world. 

I’d like my life and legacy to represent that money and business are not inherently bad or a hindrance to a deep and meaningful life. I don’t know anyone—not a painter, doctor, priest, monk, spiritual teacher, or first responder—who doesn’t totally rely upon a business structure to navigate their offerings effectively.

I believe a business can execute the wishes of the people within it… so it starts and ends with me, and I’m convinced a few key questions I asked and answered over and over again got us to where we are: 

Who am I being? 

Who do I want to be? 

What are my core values? 

Am I adding more love to this world? 

Am I doing right by people? 

Am I lifting people up and helping the world be better? 

What do I stand for? 

As you continue to build your life, what questions are you asking and answering? I’d love to help. 

Until then; Work Wise. Tell Truth. Love People. 

#iloveyoukeepgoing #goodworks 


“After you become a millionaire, you can give all of your money away because what’s important is not the million dollars; what’s important is the person you have become in the process of becoming a millionaire.” — Jim Rohn.