It has been said of me that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I’ve made a living in a variety of ways in my life from working cattle on a ranch to making lumber in a sawmill. I’ve been an oilfield worker, professional photographer, carpenter, minister (20 years), realtor, developer, writer, speaker, founded an organization that empowered 120,000 volunteers to provide 20 million meals for disaster relief in Haiti and spend a great deal of my effort empowering people to feed the hungry.

I’m exactly what I want to be: curious and flexible. I leave very few stones unturned.

Learn More About Rick


Writer and Speaker


Shining Your Light in the Darkness


The light on the end table in our bedroom turned on at 2:00 in the morning. It was six feet from our bed. We do not have a clapper.

I asked my wife if she turned it on. Nope. I asked the dog. Nope.

My wife told me it was a sign. I had to wake up at 4:00 AM to catch a flight to Haiti to meet desperately hungry school kids in a village called Balan. She reminded me of this verse:

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10)

 We’ve lived in that same house with that same lamp for ten years. That lamp never turned on by itself before; it hasn’t since. That was five years ago the light turned on by itself.

 Several years earlier, I met a starving girl in Nicaragua who prompted me to make a vow; I would spend the rest of my life getting as many people as I could to feed as many hungry people as I could.

I’ve been in the hunger-space for quite some time now and think the people who work on these issues are some of the greatest people I’ve met. Oh, sure, I’ve met a couple of jerks, but by-and-large the people who work in this space are delightful. When compassion is the thread that unites people, goodness is the result of their activity.

Hunger is a bi-partisan issue. All religions believe feeding hungry people is a good thing. Scientists, politicians, bureaucrats, business people, factory workers, educators, and people from all walks of life- especially the poor- try to figure out how to feed hungry people.

If you’re looking for a purpose in life, may I suggest feeding the hungry? You don’t have to go all-out like I do; that’s just my nature. But you can do a lot of little things. Volunteer at the food bank; serve at a soup kitchen; have a meal-packaging event; make a donation to someone who feeds the hungry; pay your workers enough to live on; help a poor family get their kids educated; Plant a Row for the Hungry. If these ideas aren’t enough, email me, there’s more where those came from.

Any effort- no matter how small- matters to you and to the person you’re trying to help.

Your bedroom lamp might not turn on in the middle of the night, but I bet you find the sun shining in your life is brighter than before.

I used to want my epitaph to read: See, I told you I was sick.

Now I want it to read: He loved well and ed a lot of hungry people.

 If you would like these short essays delivered automatically to your inbox, just hit the “sign up for blog” button. I promise never to spam you or give your contact information to anyone.

Photo: mine









Aerial Scenics, Cloudscapes

Is it Time to Climb? The Value of a 30,000 Foot View


I’m going to spend time at 30,000 feet this week.  Although I don’t like the hassle of flying, I do like the view.   Identifying landmarks makes me feel like a little kid on a road trip trying to find things that start with the letters of the alphabet. Q and X were killers.

Stuck in a rut.  Getting down in the weeds.  Can’t see the forest for the trees. These phrases describe getting so involved in the details that we lose the big picture.  While details are important because that is where the devil lives, it is good to gain an elevated view.  For me, it seems that a 30,000 foot view helps me figure out what small stuff is worth the sweat. When I’m down in the muck, I can’t always figure that out and waste a lot of energy on silly things.

Here’s what I notice about my view from 30,000 feet:

The important things become a lot more clear.  Family. Health. People. Passion for what I do.

I see connections better than I do on the ground.  Dot-connecting is a lot easier for me from above.

I feel insignificant and that is a good thing. Sometimes I get an overinflated sense of my purpose which usually only stresses me out.

The future looks brighter.  It’s always a clear view at 30,000 feet.

Storms are below or behind me. I can coast.

Staying at 30,000 feet for very long is unhealthy.  I need to get unstuck from the rut.  The weeds are where the treasure hides. I need to bang around from tree to tree in the forest because that’s where the work gets done.

It just really does me good to climb up occasionally and get a different view.







How a Little Curiosity Fed the World: Dr. Norman Borlaug


He was a farm-boy from rural Iowa but is considered as the man who saved a billion lives.  He became a scientist because his grandpa said, ““You’re wiser to fill your head now if you want to fill your belly later on.” He filled a lot of bellies.

He’s also known as the father of the Green Revolution.

All because he was curious.

Dr. Norman Borlaug grew up in Cresco, Iowa, but spent a great deal of time in Mexico researching wheat.  While there, he developed a strain of wheat with high-yields and disease resistant. His strain of wheat is considered to have saved over a billion people in South Asia from starving to death.

1,000,000,000 people saved from starvation because one man was curious.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, then started the World Food Prize in 1986 to honor people who have created great solutions to improving agricultural production in the world. I’m in Des Moines this week for my 5th time at the WFP. Hundreds of people from around the world gather for inspiration, education, and networking.

Agricultural production has to increase by at least 70% in the next 35 years in order to feed the world’s population of 9 billion.  The World Food Prize brings together the sharpest minds in agriculture trying to figure out how to make those numbers.

It was started by one man.

All because he was curious.





The Value of Watching the Dance From the Balcony


Was your first junior high dance as miserable as mine? My first one registered 9.6 on the Richter Scale of catastrophe to my tender adolescent soul. However, I finally got a girl to dance. I may or may not have traded her a candy bar.

Our old gymnasium had a balcony along one side for spectators. It hunger over the gym floor enough that you couldn’t make a jump shot from the baseline, but we weren’t very good at basketball so it didn’t matter.

The balcony was where our chaperones watched our adolescence get the best of us as shy boys asked giggling girls for a dance. The perspective of the chaperones was much different than ours as we were caught in the drama of the dance.

I often think of that old gym and the creaky wooden stairs to the balcony when I feel like I’m getting stuck in the drama of the dance. I mentally climb those wooden steps to look out over the dance floor of my current situation and ask myself a few questions:

      • What’s really going on here?
      • Why aren’t people enjoying the dance?
      • What is the fundamental principle at play?
      • What advice would I give myself as an outsider?
      • What matters most at the end of the day when the dance is over?
      • What can I trade a candy bar for?

When I feel like I’m getting caught up in the drama of the dance, I climb the creaky old wooden stairs to get on the balcony to get a different view.

The view is much different; the answers come more easily.

The dance is much more fun.


Leadership Lessons Learned in a Kayak


The greatest celebrations in life are often the simplest. For example, each time I sit in my kayak without dunking myself upside down is a moment of triumph.

I’ve dunked myself- and have had others dunk me- out of canoes so many times that I just assume I’ll be soaking wet before the journey begins. However, I nearly drown while being dunked because I’m laughing so hard. A recent acquisition of one-person kayak has opened up new opportunities for self-dunking. However, I’m happy to report that after several hours of kayaking on open waters, I’ve yet to dunk myself. Give me time; I’m sure the first Class III water I hit on a river will change that.

Kansas lakes frequently have whitecaps big enough to surf. Kansa means children of the south-wind that blows like a 50,000-watt hair dryer in the summer. It’s easy to find directions in Kansas by looking at the trees; they lean north.

On a particularly windy day, I managed another successful launch-without-dunk and pointed across the lake and directly into the ferocious wind. As I dug my paddle into the water, I began to understand a few similarities to leadership:

Leaning in to adversity works best – facing straight into the wind was the hardest, but produced the greatest results. If you’re anything like me, you prefer an adverse-free life. But what if, in order to reach our long-term goals, we have to go through adversity? If I can approach adversity as something I must go through to accomplish my goals, then I can reframe my narrative in the midst the tension.

Adversity secretly makes me stronger- It would be much easier to float down the river and let the current take me, but paddling into the wind was a better workout. Somehow, knowing that each arduous stroke was making me stronger made the adversity more endurable. If I can reframe difficult times with the understanding that I’m getting stronger then I can approach them more positively.

Take a break- I took a detour from the straight-line to my destination and found the lee-side of the dam quite refreshing. I coasted within spitting distance of a herring gull perched atop a buoy looking at me rather amused. We chatted a bit then I carried on. Finding a place of peace in the midst of adversity is the sacred work of poets, religion, philosophers and psychologists.

Kayaking lakes is getting a bit boring; I’m ready for more adventure. I’ve spotted a fast-moving river I want to try out. Next time I’m near the ocean, I’m in it on a kayak.

I have a sneaking feeling I’ll learn all sorts of new ways to get dunked.

I took the photo on Easter Lake in Iowa. It was NOT windy that day.

If you’d like these essays delivered to your email automatically, hit the “sign up for my blog” button on the landing page. I promise never to spam you or give your information to anyone else. Furthermore, you can opt-out any time without a guilt trip.




Older Posts