“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams”: An Interview with Randy Samelson
“I have a dream!” It wasn’t only Martin Luther King, Jr. who said those words. Every entrepreneur – whether in a business or a nonprofit – has dreamed of building a great organization and accomplishing an inspiring vision.
But most of those dreams hit a few speed bumps on the way. And too many dreams are often left to “someday,” and never see the light of day. Randon (Randy) Samelson, the founder of Counsel & Capital, has spent a lifetime around Christian leaders. His new book, Breakthrough: Unleashing the Power of a Proven Plan, was written for dreamers who want to actually see their aspirations accomplished. In this interview, Samelson shares about his career as an investor, a strategy for accomplishing any vision, and why King David’s own plan to build the temple should guide those who still dream today.
What in your personal work experience motivated you to write Breakthrough?
I’ve spent much of my life surrounded by Christian leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs. Almost all have had great and noble dreams. But at some point, all of them have been “stuck.” They have a goal, but they can’t seem to reach it. I’ve seen this with my friends and my children too, and even I have experienced the frustration of feeling “stuck.”
Some years ago, I read the Bible story of King David and Solomon. David had a dream of building a great Temple. I noticed that he followed a simple, six-step sequence to complete it, and along the way, he never seemed to get “stuck.” I was stunned when I realized that those same six-steps are where most people I’ve ever known have tripped up and become “stuck.”
So I decided to write Breakthrough to demonstrate how relevant the Bible is today, and how the story of David and Solomon can help people become unstuck. The more I’ve studied that story, and the more I’ve helped people who feel “stuck,” the more I’ve realized that following those six-steps can greatly enhance your ability to achieve your dream. I’ve realized that the Bible contains a perfect blueprint for turning dreams into realities.
Can you further explain the gap you often find between ‘right-brained’ ministry leaders and ‘left-brained’ business leaders?
The human brain has two hemispheres – the “left brain,” which is largely analytical and sequential, and the “right brain,” which is largely intuitive. In each person, one side usually dominates (sometimes a little, sometimes a lot) and this affects how he or she processes and responds to information.
Not surprisingly, many “left-brainers” pursue professions that complement their method of thinking: bankers, scientists, lawyers, accountants, and so on. Similarly, many “right-brainers” find themselves best suited for more creative endeavors: artists, writers, counselors, etc. This isn’t the rule, of course, but it’s often the norm.
I’ve seen this pattern in the Christian community. Very often, ministries are led by creative, passionate “right-brainers,” but their major donors are very often “lefties.” I regularly have ministry leader’s call to say, “We have great ideas, but we don’t have enough money,” while at the same time, wealthy donors call to say, “I have money and a desire to give, but I lack confidence in most nonprofits.” There’s a gap separating both groups, and it’s often because each side speaks a slightly different language based on right or left-brain thinking.
Thus, I believe the biggest opportunity is building bridges of confidence between these left-brain donors and ministries, while still maintaining their effective outreach to right-brain donors.
What can King David and his calling to build the Temple teach nonprofit executives about accomplishing their mission?
First, rely on the wisdom found in the Bible. King David had a dream that was an enormous and remarkable undertaking for his time. Not only did he achieve his dream, but his Temple remains a wonder of the ancient world, and still sits in the center stage of human history. King David followed six simple steps to turn his dream into a reality. Your dream may not be to build a Temple, but it’s still worthwhile to study the sequence David followed. No matter how big your dream, you can (and should) follow the same six steps:
- An Inspiring Vision
- A Credible Plan
- The Right Leader
- Initial Funding
- Going Public
- Sharing Credit
Breakthrough walks readers through these steps in detail, but anyone can start by reading the full story in 1 Chronicles 28-29. Understanding and applying this simple process will change your life and empower you to turn your dream into reality.
How does the model you laid out influence the strategy of Counsel and Capital?
First, we apply the six-step strategy to ourselves, and then we advocate it for others. We always start by asking our “key log” question, a concept we picked up from the logging industry. A long time ago, loggers discovered that the easiest way to transport felled trees is to put them in rivers and float them downstream. This is usually an efficient and effective method, but logjams inevitably occur somewhere. Instead of tackling the whole mess, the workers instead hunt for the “key log” – that one log causing the problem that, once removed, untangles the logjam.
We apply the same concept to individuals and ministries who are stuck or trapped in their own version of a logjam. So we ask them, “What one opportunity or obstacle, if captured or removed, would most advance your vision?” Usually, “money” is somewhere in the answer. But money is rarely the real problem.
So we work through the same six-step sequence until we find a problem or deficiency. Almost always, we find that the “key log” is in one of those six steps. And once that key log is identified and addressed, most ministries experience bursts of progress that get them back on track and out of their original logjam.
What practical advice would you give either business leaders or nonprofit leaders who have a dream they want to accomplish?
Read our book Breakthrough – Unleashing the Power of a Proven Plan. The single best piece of advice I can offer anyone with a dream is to follow David’s six-step sequence, in order. Start with a personal, inspiring, clear, and measurable vision. Follow that with a detailed, credible plan. Then, make sure your dream has the right leader. Secure initial funding first, and only then go public. Finally, share credit with those who helped you along the way. David followed the same six steps, in order, when he pursued his dream of building the Temple. If you have a dream, start by following the same sequence.
Beyond this, let me offer a few final pieces of advice. As hard as it may be, don’t jump from your vision or dream right to broad, public fundraising. I know that impatience is difficult to tackle, but planning is absolutely critical. Don’t make the mistake of skipping or skimping on your plan, and always put your plan in writing. If planning isn’t your strong suit, ask for help from someone who knows how to do it.
Finally, stay focused. Don’t chase the latest trends or hottest fundraising need. Build no more than three operating “silos” for your nonprofit. Know exactly what you want to do and then, to quote Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”