Life on the Redemptive Edge

Our new podcast features stories of redemptive entrepreneurship from the Praxis community.

This article originally appeared in The Praxis Journal, 17 April 2019.

Interviews are a kind of loving pursuit. My job as an interviewer is to take a relentless interest in another person’s life, times, ideas, and story. I’m there to help them pursue the truth of their own life and, through their life, the truth that all of us are looking for.

Our first podcast from Praxis, The Redemptive Edge, has been an exercise in that kind of pursuit. It started with the pursuit of the guests themselves. We were looking for people in the Praxis community who had a few key qualities. Above all, they needed to have built something redemptive — that rare and somewhat elusive quality that we think is summed up by the phrase “creative restoration through sacrifice.” While Praxis is a Christian organization, we are never looking just for entrepreneurs who happen to share our faith — that’s far too coarse a filter. Instead, we are looking for people whose work has been both costly and creative, with restorative effects in the world.

It became clear to me that there is no one “profile” of an entrepreneur — at least not a redemptive entrepreneur.

We were also interested in people who had experienced the two sides of life as an entrepreneur — the moments when you realize you might actually succeed and the moments when you realize you might actually fail — and had something to say about how to survive both success and failure.

And we wanted to find people who had a unique point of view — who believed in something others couldn’t see, at least not at first, and were willing to risk their lives, or at least their future and their fortune (if they had any!), on what they believed.

We assembled quite a group. Their ventures are nonprofit and for-profit, with revenues ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to billions of dollars; they live and work in every corner of the United States, and not just in the corners or the coasts, either; they are children of immigrants, children who grew up on hardscrabble farms, and children of comfortable suburbs; some have lived their whole life in one place and some had lived in a dozen places before they turned thirty. (And not all of them have turned thirty.)

As we pursued each conversation, it became clear to me that there is no one “profile” of an entrepreneur — at least not a redemptive entrepreneur. The business media fixate on Silicon Valley and venture capital, whiz kids and “tech bros.” But the entrepreneurs we pursued for the first season of The Redemptive Edge are in all kinds of industries in all kinds of locations. San Francisco, yes, but also Wichita; Memphis as well as Los Angeles. In college they majored in acting and fashion as well as engineering and finance. A few of them talk so fast I had trouble keeping up — others talk so slowly I had to slow down myself. Some of them have taken venture capital; many others never even considered it.

Our conversations were very different — just to name some of the high points, over the course of the first season you’ll hear a poetry reading, a high-octane debate about cyborg technology, and a story about a three year old that turns on the word stomp. And yet, I did end up feeling like there were threads that tied all these conversations together.

Every one of our guests has suffered some kind of loss — and often those losses were the real beginning of their redemptive journey.

Every one of them has, in one way or another, voluntarily gone somewhere difficult where they wouldn’t have had to go.

And out of that loss and sacrifice, each one of them has not just created a business, but discovered something essential about themselves, the world, and God.

As a journalist, sometimes you have to pursue people who would rather not be pursued. But these interviews weren’t like that at all. Instead, they felt like a common pursuit — the pursuit, yes, of businesses and organizations that could make a difference, but more fundamentally the pursuit of lives that were truthful, beautiful, and good enough to be worth living.

They are some of the most memorable conversations of my life, with some of the people I’m most astonished and grateful to have met, and starting today I get to share them with you. Welcome to the redemptive edge.