Tribe and Council: How I’m thinking about my social network

Posted on 20. Sep, 2010 by .


I wrote a while back about living life intentionally. Radical things happen when you begin applying that principle to every area of life. This is not something I do naturally, but I’m learning.

One such way is in my relationships. I’m thinking differently about this now. I’ve been out of college for five years and my social network has morphed into a mishmash of friends from high school, college, Twitter, work, and all places in between. I feel really lucky to have so many great people in my life. I can honestly say that 99% of the time I feel that they are better friends to me than I to them. But that’s a post for another day.

I have to admit, at times I have a really hard time keeping up with everyone. Most days I feel guilty for not calling, texting, emailing, or tweeting them enough. Just when I feel good about calling that college buddy I haven’t talked to in three years, I remember six more that bounced through the cracks of my caffeinated brain. In the hustle of life and work and pursuit of my stuff, I seem to just forget about people. A lot of people put odds and ends on their shelves, but I’m ashamed to admit that I do that with friends. Terrible, isn’t it?

I’ve had a lot of guilt over this since I graduated, but I’m trying to get better about it. I realize that life pulls people apart like cotton candy in the hands of a four-year old, but still, I need to try. I need to work at it.

So here’s a little step I’ve taken to bring some clarity.

I picture my social network as a pyramid with family and really close friends at the very top. At the base are acquaintances and people I barely know. I know I’m going to keep in touch with those at the top and there’s so many at the bottom, I know it will be tough to stay connected there. I’m most concerned with those folks in the middle. I’m now thinking of my social network in terms of my tribe and my council. They hang out in the middle of the pyramid.


These are “my people.” My tribe includes anyone in my past with whom I’ve had a meaningful relationship for any decent length of time. My tribe gets me. We’ve shared common experiences. We’ve laughed together. We have mutual friends. My tribe spans all eras and epochs of my life–childhood, high school, college, and beyond. While these people may not be my best friends, I know they’ll be there if the world goes bi-polar on me. I write down the names of the people in my tribe. Why? Because they deserve it. They’re more than some kid I sat by in a Shakespeare class once. We’ve shared some little piece of life together. In the maelstrom of busyness and 60 hour workweeks, I have to keep a list. What about the people that don’t make the list? They’re awesome as well. But if everyone is special, then no one is special. There has to be a list. A list helps me remember the people who love me. It may seem cold and impersonal, but what’s the alternative? Forgetting that people I love exist? That just won’t do.

My tribe is my people. We do life together. I do what I can to serve and help them. And they do the same for them.


My council is different from my tribe. They’re on a list too, but of course they don’t know it. This idea isn’t new. Jim Collins and others have written about having a personal board of directors. But that’s a little more formal than what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the compelling people I meet who have a story. I’m talking about thought leaders, visionaries, entrepreneurs, world-changers. They form my council.

Here’s the bottom line:

Everyone has something I want.

And I’m not talking about money or social connections. I’m talking about really valuable stuff:

knowledge, wisdom, and life experience.

And people on my council LOVE sharing this stuff. Everyone’s an expert on something. What’s crazy is that other people rarely engage that expertise! Most people’s expertise sits locked up in a treasure chest surrounded by threadbare beggars who never even ask what’s inside!

I have a friend, Jim, who owns a chain of carwashes. Pretty boring industry, right? Not really. After an hour of talking to Jim, I learned the percentage of people who choose the cheapest carwash package. I learned that most carwashes use very little water because they recycle it. And I learned that Jim just launched a program that gives clean water to a person in a developing nation every time one of his customers washes their car. Are you kidding me? That’s fascinating stuff.

My council is a hodgepodge of influencers. Some of them I’ve only met once. Some of them are kinduva big deal. Most of them live normal lives. But I work to keep in touch and offer to help and serve whenever possible. I can offer most of them nothing of value, but that doesn’t stop me from offering.

Graduation from college usually signals the slow death of our learning. And sadly, the decade of the 20s is usually just one drawn out funeral. We’re content to passively absorb a nugget of truth every now and then but few of us track down wisdom like a bandit in the night and corner him, day after day after day. That’s the value of my council. They teach me things. Do I learn from everyone in my social network? Of course…in small ways. But there are certain people I know who offer something really unique. They connect me to information and other people who make my life better. That’s my council.

When all of your social connections–best friends, and clients, and roommates, and facebook friends–swim around in one big kettle in your brain, some will get lost in the soup. A little bit of intentional thought and proactive effort goes a long way.

Who’s in your tribe? Who’s in your council?

P.S. This little post is just a relationship ramble. If you want a master class in thinking intentionally about relationships, check out Keith Ferrazzi’s book called “Never Eat Alone.”

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Thanks, Debbie. (a reminder on living)

Posted on 01. Sep, 2010 by .


Imagine you could touch and see all the nuggets of wisdom from the last decade of your life. Imagine you could gather them together, one-by-one, and pour them into a giant distillery of wisdom. Imagine then that the machine slowly awakes from its sleep, creaking to life. Gears begin to grind, steam shoots from aluminum pipes, whistles blow, conveyor belts begin to glide along. And on the other end of this giant wisdom machine is a spigot and out from that spigot gushes the juicy nectar of A Big Truth.

If all that learning could be distilled into one summarizing truth, what would it be?

I know what mine would be.

The grand, sticky sweet truth of my 20s could be summarized in three words: Live life intentionally.

It’s as if God rented a billboard in the background of every scene of my 20s, and they all say a different version of the same truth…




Live life on purpose, Brett.

Brett, don’t coast.

Brett, don’t just float along and react.

Don’t let 2 hours-a-night of primetime TV steal your days, Trapp.

Don’t let a life hard-wired for rich adventure be shorted out by an influx of passivity.




Are you listening, Brett?

I think a lot of people think God has given them a life like a rock. I think He’s given me a life like play-dough. And the play-dough is ours to make a work of art or a little pile of play-dough poop. And though I believe he is directing our hands in some weird way, He affords us a million little choices, a million little right or lefts, a million little ups or downs. And every little choice links together to form a life.

The story is His, but for some insane reason he hands us the pen and let’s our chubby little kid-hands write a bit.


Scary thought–that we’ve been given one shot to make this life count for something. There was a start…and there will be a finish. There is no opt-out option for death.

I’ve faced death only a few times in my life. When my dad died when I was 19 was one of them.

But I faced it this week again–first time in a while.

I have a good friend here in Atlanta named Matt. On Saturday night Matt’s mom, Debbie, was out shopping with his sister. She sat down for a minute, slumped over, and never woke up. A brain hemorrhage had suddenly and unexpectedly ended her life.

Sunday morning a few of us went over to Matt’s house. We sat in silence mostly. We tried our best to be some comfort in an ocean of grief. I broke down once, thinking again about that day ten years ago when my own parent had passed on.

And we listened to Matt tell of his mom, Debbie. He told how that week she had sent he and his brother and sister long text messages, telling them how much she loved them. One of Matt’s buddies from college told how his mom once brought tons of furniture and rugs and spent all day decorating their college pad. Later that day, some friends set up a Facebook page where countless people told stories of how she lived life…


I left Matt’s and called my mom. Just needed to hear her voice.

I’m going to Debbie’s funeral in a few minutes. Hoping the call to live life intentionally becomes a little more real, because I know I’m not there yet.

Thanks, Debbie. We miss ya already.

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Posted on 22. Aug, 2010 by .


365 days ago today I launched this blog. After planning (read procrastinating) for literally two years prior, I finally pulled the trigger and got the thing launched. The original intent for this blog was for it just to be a platform for my thoughts on two things: my Christian faith and business. My thinking was that you have “Christian” blogs and business blogs but rarely do you see one that has both. I wanted to be that. Of course I quickly found out that I couldn’t resist blogging about other topics, like weddings, Alabama football, and real life horror stories.

A few interesting facts from the first year of

  • I posted 98 times–or 26% of all days during a year.
  • 15,609 visits and 30,280 pageviews – Don’t be impressed. The big boys get this in a day.
  • 26% of my blog visitors come via clickthrus on Facebook. 17% come from Twitter. 6% come from Google. Great job Facebook friends.
  • Exactly 1/3 of all visits came from the fine folks in my home state of Alabama. 22% came from Georgia. 10% from Florida. To the two people in North Dakota who have visited, I love you too.
  • My most popular post? THIS ONE. Surprisingly enough, it’s also the one most scoffed at by certain people. That post had a really broad appeal and a lot of people found it through Google.
  • I’ve done two little fundraising pushes through this blog. raised $2,251 for schools in Africa and the 22in22 campaign raised $2288 for clean water in Kenya. Total between the two projects, $4,539. Awesome! I love doing little things like this to help causes I believe in. Probably won’t be the last. HUGE thanks to everyone who gave!

My posts dropped off a bit in the summer, but I’m hoping to get it cranking again this fall. Have lots of good post ideas that I’m really excited about. I’ll loosely stick the Christianity/Business thing, but I’ll deviate at times. I’ll try to be somewhat consistent but sometimes I’ll get busy and I may disappear for a while. You can understand busy, right?

Can I make one request?

Writing stuff that people may or may not read with zero financial incentive is interesting. You find yourself craving feedback. For the blogger with no paycheck, it is, in fact, the only incentive to keep writing. Knowing that someone was encouraged, inspired, pissed, or just got a laugh at something I wrote means everything. So if that’s you, do me a favor and just let me know. Or better yet, tell someone else. We tip waiters, hair stylists, and even the pizza delivery kid when they do a good job. Don’t ever be afraid to throw a digital tip–a retweet or FB post or email forward–in the direction of someone who’s created something you liked.

Okay, it took me a whole year to work up the courage to self-promote. So if you feel violated and spammed and hate me now, well…sorry.

I know some people think blogging is vain and egocentric. And maybe it is. In fact, most days I would use those two words to describe myself. I just happen to believe that every single person has something to offer and that you don’t have to be an “expert” or have 30 years experience in something to be able to write about it.

When my late dad was a young pastor in his 20’s he only had a couple hundred people in his congregation. These were people God put in his path to encourage and inspire. That’s kind of how I view this blog. If only 50 or 100 people ever read my posts and it never “grows,” I’m okay with that. For some reason, you’re reading, and that means a lot to me. I’ll do my best to add a little something valuable to your day.

Life is short. Let’s all keep trying to do it right.



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And the winner is…

Posted on 01. Jul, 2010 by .


All right, here it is! Last week I set out to raise $2200 in 22 hrs to help bring clean water to people in Kenya. You guys stepped up, and we did it! Well I won an ipad for my efforts, and I said I’d give it away randomly to someone who gave at least $22. So I rounded up a few friends to help out with the drawing (see video below). Couple of notes…

  • I entered everyone who gave at least $22 within the 22 hr window one time
  • The winner needs to email me at iamtrappstr at gmail dot com

Again, thanks so much for your help! We really made a difference to some special people that God really cares about.


(If you can’t see the video, click here.)

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Vampires and Surgeons: A Mentoring Metaphor

Posted on 29. Jun, 2010 by .


This is a post I recently wrote for the Plywood People blog. I made a few edits to that article. My post there was more from a values-based perspective while this one is more faith-based. Enjoy!

Our life is a story of growth. From diapers to school naps to multiplication tables and so on. Under the cupped hands of school and family, we bloom. We grow. We grow up.

But along the way, we bump up against vampires.

Vampires—negative people intent on draining us of life, hope and optimism. They’re the bully in the gym, the gossip in the girls’ bathroom, the soured-on-life co-worker. Vampires come and they go, but they never really go away. They move with us, lurking from lifestage to lifestage. Jesus dealt with vampires too.

Sometimes disguised as friends and even family, vampires stand in the shadows of our greatest moments—arms crossed, jealous toe tapping. And when our shining moment fades and the lights dim, they track us down in the parking lot, only to remind us of our pimples, hiccups, and scars.

And these vampires do real damage. Their words stick, clinging to our souls and thrashing around in our minds months and years and decades later.

And then one day we meet a cheerleader. Ahh…the anti-vampire. Her face is warm. She’s cute and has a pony-tail. Her words soothe, encourage, affirm. She’s our 5th grade teacher, or a smiling face from church, or college buddy who loves life. The cheerleaders of life tell us everything we want to believe about ourselves. That we’re good-looking and funny and that we smell good. Not only are they present during our shining moments, they’re actually the ones helping create them, toe-touching and fist-pumping us the whole time.

But there’s a third player—the surgeon.

And he’s the difference-maker.

The surgeon is one part vampire, cutting and hacking and slinging blood. And he’s one part cheerleader, nourishing pallid souls back to health. He recognizes the ills of life and offers to help. He seats us on the hospital table with the crinkly paper, finds the hidden tumors, and goes to work. He doesn’t just dice and slice—for this would make him only a butcher. He also administers blood during the procedure. He identifies and fixes what we don’t need, and gives us more of what we do need.

And, like vampires, surgeons are scary. Dark eyes peering over a surgical mask, scalpel in hand. Oh, that scalpel–his instrument of pain! But the surgeon, in all of his blood-soaked horror, has a noble calling. Like a vampire, he wounds. But he wounds to heal. He cuts to fix. He injures to revive. While the vampire is our enemy, the surgeon is our friend…

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” – Prov 27:6

Most of us spend a lifetime running from vampires and running towards cheerleaders—avoiding pain and chasing after people who make us feel good. We resist the call of the surgeon, the call of the mentor. Because in the wounding there is pain (and we are biologically programmed to resist pain). But the wounding is the hallmark of a good mentor. A good mentor is not merely a cheerleader. He’s more than the rah-rah. Like a surgeon, a good mentor identifies the tumors in our lives. She sees the things that we cannot see or refuse to see—character defects, blind spots, and glaring inconsistencies in the way we live. Mentors step into our personal space and ask us the tough questions. They challenge our presuppositions on living. They aren’t afraid to get bloody. The ancients understood this; apprenticeships were a way of life. Professional athletes understand this now; personal trainers and coaches are a foregone conclusion. Yet in our personal lives, we’re content to march along alone, sovereign rulers in the Kingdom of Me. And it’s in this secret kingdom where the tumors of hubris, infidelity, and scandal take root.

Better to swing open the gates and invite a surgeon in. Surgery may be needed. And you don’t have a day to waste.

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We did it!!!!!!!

Posted on 26. Jun, 2010 by .


NOTE: If you didn’t read my post from Thursday night, you need to read that first, or this won’t make sense. Read it here.

Wow! I am blown away! At midnight on Thursday night I kicked off a little fundraising campaign to help bring clean water to Kenya. I honestly didn’t know if anyone would get behind it, but I thought it was worth a shot. Well, it exceeded my expectations! Many of my friends stepped up and helped raise more than $2266 for the cause!

Also, I won the ipad! Like I said, I’m going to give it away and do a random drawing from the pool of people who gave. Still working through the details of how that’s going to work, but know that it will be done with integrity (will do a video of the drawing and post it to Youtube). I should be able to do this in the next couple of days.

I’ve tried to thank everyone who gave but hear me say it again, thank you. Ultimately, this was not about me, Twitter, blogs, or ipads. It was about all of us answering the call to use what we have to help others. Most of you are like me in that we feel incredibly blessed. With everything in me I want to know that I stewarded my stuff well. I want to know that I didn’t ignore the cry of the helpless.

I’ll be giving more updates next week, but I just wanted to stop and say

Thank You!

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22 in 22! Give Water / Win an ipad!

Posted on 25. Jun, 2010 by .


If you’ve been listening lately, you’ve heard me talking up the Water for Kenya 5K. This is an event the company I work for is hosting and sponsoring. The 5k is happening in downtown Norcross, Georgia, tomorrow, Saturday, June 26, at 8:00am. We’re partnering with an incredible non-profit here in Atlanta, Kenya Medical Outreach. KMO does tons of good work in Kenya, but this event is all about clean water. There is a true crisis in Kenya. People there hike for hours to gather toxic, contaminated water every day.

Of the many complex world crises–wars, crumbling economies, earthquakes–this is the easiest to solve. Digging a simple well provides clean water for life.

But it takes money.

A small team of us has been organizing this event for months, and we can’t wait to see it all come together Saturday morning. If you’re going to be in Atlanta on Saturday, WE’D LOVE TO SEE YOU THERE! Even if you’re not a runner, come out and just walk. Online registration is now closed, but you can still register the morning of the event (registration opens at 7am).

If you can’t make the run, YOU CAN STILL HELP! At the time of this post (midnight on Thursday night), I’m kicking off a personal fundraising campaign called 22 in 22!

I’m trying to raise $2200 in the next 22 hrs to help dig a well in Kenya. I’m asking 100 people to give $22 to help save lives. $2200 will provide clean water for life for more than 85 people!

Those that know me well know that I’m all about the number 22. It was my dad’s high school basketball number, and–for whatever reason–it’s taken on a lot of meaning since he passed away on New Year’s Eve of 2000. My dad was a pastor for many years, and those of you who knew him, knew he was a man of God. This is something he would support. If you knew my dad, I’m asking you to make a gift in his honor.

I have a personal fundraising page at where you can securely pay by credit/debit card.

Oh! And one more thing. A bunch of people in my company are raising money for water as well. A generous donor has donated an ipad to be given to the top fundraiser in our company. Right now, the leader has collected $1450 so far, so anyone could win it! And if I win it, I’ll do a random drawing from everyone who gave $22 and give it to that person!

Give Water / Win an ipad

$2200 in 22 hours (100 people giving $22…of course you can always give more:)

22 in 22!



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Vampires and Surgeons/A guest post for Plywood People

Posted on 20. Jun, 2010 by .


Jeff Shinabarger is a new friend here in Atlanta. Jeff is an incredibly talented creative. Aside from doing creative consulting with organizations like Catalyst, he also is a serial entrepreneur having started organizations like GiftCard Giver and Plywood People. Jeff was at a recent event where I spoke to some high school students about tuning out the haters and tuning into a good mentor, someone who drills into your life and challenges you to be a better person. My talk was entitled “Vampires and Surgeons.” Jeff asked me write an article about it for the Plywood People blog. So that’s what I did. Here’s a snippet…

“Like a surgeon, a good mentor identifies the tumors in our lives. She sees the things that we cannot see or refuse to see—character defects, blind spots, and glaring inconsistencies in the way we live. Mentors step into our personal space and ask us the tough questions. They challenge our presuppositions on living. They aren’t afraid to get bloody. The ancients understood this; apprenticeships were a way of life. Professional athletes understand this now; personal trainers and coaches are a foregone conclusion. Yet in our personal lives, we’re content to march along alone, sovereign rulers in the Kingdom of Me. And it’s in this secret kingdom where the tumors of hubris, infidelity, and scandal take root.”

To read the entire article, you can click HERE.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!


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5 things I’m doing to be more productive these days

Posted on 10. May, 2010 by .


1. Using my laptop battery in my favor – If your laptop is a couple years old like mine, then your battery probably has the lifespan of an Iranian bid for the winter Olympics. Mine lasts about an hour these days. But I’ve learned to use that in my favor. If I need to get something done, I’ll take my laptop to Starbucks without the charger. That way I know I’ve got exactly one hour to get it done. The clock is ticking and that limited timeframe channels my focus and forces productivity.

2. Taking the first step, first – When I sit down at my computer to get work done, 99% of the time I tell myself, “I’ll get started in a minute, right after I check facebook and Twitter.” Well 15 minutes turns into 30 minutes which turns into an hour which turns into me watching shark videos on Youtube. By then I’ve completely forgotten what I initially set out to do.

So I’m learning: Open my work files FIRST.

It’s okay to browse around online a bit before I get started, but if my Word or Excel or Photoshop file is open and on my desktop, it serves as a big flashing reminder of my goal.

3. Redeeming the downtime – I assume everyone does this, but maybe not. I’ve been trying to take all the predictable downtime in my life and redeem it with productivity. For example, while my gas is pumping, I clean out my car. When I’m waiting to get my haircut, I read Fast Company magazine. I have a friend who flosses at red lights. I have another friend who runs without an ipod and he uses that time to pray. My tendency is to fill these times with music or mindless Internet browsing, but I’m disciplining myself to make that time count.

4. Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts – I’m always surprised when I see people not using keyboard shortcuts on their computers. Microsoft and Apple have built tons of time-saving tricks into the keyboard. Here is a list of Windows shortcuts and here is one for Apple shortcuts. These lists can be overwhelming, so don’t feel like you have to learn them all. I’m trying to expand my use of shortcuts, but if you’re a newbie, start with these five most common ones:

  • CTRL S – Save
  • CTRL A – Select all
  • CTRL C – Copy the selection to clipboard
  • CTRL X – Cut the selection to clipboard
  • CTRL V – Paste

5. Checklist-mania – There’s a book that’s been circulating in our company that’s been making waves. It’s called the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. It’s all about the value of checklists–not the sexiest of topics, to say the least. The author is a surgeon and he explains how operating room errors have been dramatically reduced by incorporating detailed checklists into each procedure. Pretty simple concept, but no one does it. So I’m working on all sorts of checklists for work and personal life and it’s making a big difference in bringing a system to those areas where I normally wing it.

What are you doing to be more productive these days?

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Picking and Choosing in Conference Royale

Posted on 03. May, 2010 by .


My job has taken me to some great conferences in the last few months. I’ve been to Catalyst, Catalyst West, Adopted for Life, LifeWork 2.0, and the Q Conference. Each experience has been rich, opening my eyes to the dark places and introducing me to great new people.

However, I find myself feeling buried, buried under the weight of so many heavy issues.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”   – Romans 12:21

All these Christian leaders have their thing–a flare to shoot into the darkened Christian stratosphere, warning us of some great injustice in some forgotten corner of the world. And those lights seem to be multiplying in the night sky:

  • Creation care
  • Fatherlessness/mentoring
  • Modern slavery
  • Domestic evangelism
  • International missions
  • Sex trade/child trafficking
  • Adoption/orphan care
  • Poverty
  • Pornography
  • Hunger
  • Disaster relief
  • Homelessness
  • War/violence
  • Micro-finance
  • Clean water
  • Nuclear disarmament

And this is just the start. There are so many worthy options (which isn’t always a good thing).

Is it just me or did it used to be easier? Seems like the church of the 80s/90s played a pretty simple game–abortion, homosexuality, and secular music on the flop; alcohol on the turn; and R-rated movies on the river. Jerry and James and the SBC dealt the cards, and they mobilized players around the table. They played this game long into the night and well into the end of the century. Same cards, same script.

But things have changed…

Now there is myriad hot button issues, and I’m left feeling swamped. Conference leaders have constructed this gigantic Roulette Wheel of World-Change. Every few months they gather us in, call for bets, then give that sucker a whirl.

I have two bets: my time and my money. God’s given these in limited supply–this is what I have to play with–and I can’t go back to the ATM machine.

To say yes to one issue is to shun another. To embrace one is to damn the other. Do I save God’s creation or petition the government about Congolese violence? Do I mentor a child in downtown Atlanta or do I help child slaves in Haiti? Is it better to finance water projects or feed the hungry? Furthermore, does God look at that list and prioritize one item over another? And if so, should all of Christendom rush to those few issues and place their bets there?

I’m thankful for conferences. I think God uses them–in a small way–as vehicles of his will. I’m thankful they’ve raised the flag on these issues because sometimes churches forget to. I just have no idea where to begin. I’m not looking for some legalistic checklist or grid to give me a false sense of righteousness. But I do want to maximize my life, my time, my resources. I want to be strategic.

I have some thoughts, but honestly, I’m pretty clueless.

What do you think? I’m listening…

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