leadership

Are you a designated survivor?

Sometimes, my wife and I have been known to watch a little TV. Recently, we’ve been into a show called Designated Survivor (click for the trailer). The basic premise is that the least likely candidate to be president suddenly finds himself in the oval office after an act of devastating terrorism. I believe one reason why we like the show is because we see and relate to the struggles our protagonist, Tom Kirkman, goes through. He’s constantly questioning if he’s doing the right thing. And it seems that when something is going well, it’s only a matter of moments before something unexpected hits. At one point, I turned to Jamie and said, “This show is like leadership therapy.” Perhaps, it points to an issue that we all face. Aren’t we all feeling that we’re in the fight of our lives? Don’t we all have days, weeks, sometimes even months, where it seems like one thing after another and we just can’t seem to get a break?

Recently, it does feel a little that way. We’ve been having difficulty in a couple areas of the ministry. There are struggles in the cafe, whether it be figuring out adequate staffing, meeting goals we set out for ourselves at the beginning of the year, or confirming that we’re accomplishing meaningful, impactful ministry. And we’ve been struggling with church ministries. It seems a lot of people are feeling drained and overwhelmed with ministry responsibilities. Across the board, many of our staff are transitioning or preparing to transition within the next year. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic. In fact, I love my life and really am thankful for all the wonderful things I get to experience. Yet, sometimes, I find myself questioning: am I really the person for the job? Is this the right spot? What’s even happening? And will tomorrow be worse? Perhaps, a lot of this is my fault. What could I do differently?

So, I’ve been taking more time to ask these big questions. What’s my calling/purpose/passion? Who are my friends? How am I supposed to accomplish what I’m called to with who’s in my life? A couple things have happened to me in response to this recent line of questioning.

First, I heard an awesome sermon about prioritizing God above all else, because, as the pastor says, “Our priorities are much different when we’re on the front lines. We don’t have time to worry about what’s not important.” Our calling is first and foremost to Him. We must hold on to that fact. Around this time, I recalled my dad’s life verse, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

Second, I read an article on frustration. In a nutshell, frustration helps us know a few things: 1) we’re getting close to breakthrough, 2) we still have passion, 3) we’re still in the game, 4) we know what not to do :-), and 5) we can find a better way. The one that stuck out to me most was regarding passion. Our frustrations help us see where our passions are and help us know what we need to press into. Yeah sure, there are struggles. Who doesn’t have struggles and frustrations? And if you have some of these, congratulations, you might just be onto something good (spelt G-o-d).

Finally, a friend encouraged me to read Matthew 6:25-34. It’s that passage that says don’t worry. We usually gloss over that, right? We know not to worry. But do we really? Do I really trust that God has treasures in heaven (6:19-24) that far outweigh anything this world has to offer? Do I really believe that generosity (6:1-4), prayer (6:5-15), and fasting (6:16-18) will make a difference? It seems, then, that this life is pretty straight forward. We put our eyes on Him, seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and in turn he prepares and provides everything we need (6:33). He provides the calling, the season, the anointing, the friends, the ministry strategy, the everything!

What does all this mean for me? It means that even when things frustrate me, lead me to feeling desperate, or to want to quit, if I’m still here, I’m the designated survivor. I’m the one God has chosen for this hour. If that’s true, then with God all things are possible (Mark 9:23). And what does that mean for you? Whatever you’re facing. Even if it seems everyone else is gone, you’re not sure if you are the right person, you’re not sure about much and everything seems to be creeping in on you, tell those lies to stop and remember, you’re God’s chosen designated survivor and He’s going to provide everything you need as you seek Him and His Kingdom!

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Why I LOVE Re-Looking New iOS Features

Be honest with me; there’s something to which you often return. You find yourself indulging in something and imagining how great it’s going to be. For me recently, it’s been the new features page of iOS 11 that’s set to launch this fall. This is a fantastic upgrade; it’s going to do a ton for my iPad. I’ll get to do more in-depth multi-tasking (which productivity gurus tell me isn’t true anyway). The files and dock functions are going to allow me to have a more unified approach to my workflow. It makes me want to leave my Macbook Pro at home more and more often. They’re even getting closer to convincing me to buy the most expensive pencil I’ve ever owned.

All of this is good. But when I found myself typing “apple.com/ios” rather than “asana.com” to begin my actual work for the day, I had to ask myself if I have a problem.

I do indeed have a problem (other than laziness and procrastination). This problem is called “desire.” And as Lewis notes, it’s a hat tipped to a bigger something we are all acutely aware of even if merely in our subconscious: There’s more. Lewis penned this phrase:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Excuse me for being crude or overly simplistic, but this urge to scroll endlessly through announcements about keyboards and multi-tasking might be indicative of something bigger. Perhaps, it’s alluding to our other-worldly, cosmic desires. I submit that our desires tell us something about who we are and even more about who we are to become.

The key here is vision. I’ve wasted more hours than I’d like to admit on software updates. But people and products of vision point me to one key moment: we were meant for more.

The next time you’re tempted to, or look at something that draws you, ask yourself why. Consider that maybe, perhaps, your desire is actually looking for something more than pixels. You’re destined for an update from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

5Q: Answers to a Decade (or more) of My Organizational Questions

disclosure statement: I was given a copy of this book, 5Q, by Alan Hirsch to give an honest review of it.

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I can’t put this thing down. I’ve planted a church and started a business in Taiwan, a culture which has traditionally been more resistant to the gospel’s work, with around 3% of 23,000,000 people professing faith in Christ. There have been successes in our ministry. Just a few days ago we were recounting what God’s done and noted that 34 people have been baptized since 2012.  and I’ll be one of the first to admit I often feel I have no idea what I’m doing. The reason I couldn’t put this book down is because Hirsch is putting into words feelings I’ve had for nearly a decade (which is a lifetime for a millennial). The premise of Hirsch’s latest work is that Jesus Christ has already given us a blueprint for what leadership, mission, evangelism, care and teaching should look like and how it’s done. He’s calling us to allow the latent seeds of the fivefold gifts, also referred to as APEST or 5Q, Christ gave the church to begin to grow again. APEST, or apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, are five different gifts or ministries that Christ placed in the church as a result of his ascension (Ephesians 4:1-16). He writes, “In it’s simplest form, 5Q is the synergy of a holistic recombination of the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching (APEST) capacities referred to in Ephesians.” These gifts were given so that we could minister as the body of Christ and ultimately attain to the fullness of Christ. But Hirsch argues the archetypal evidence of APEST predates the establishment of the church and is actually part of the prevenient grace that God established when He created the world. Essentially, understanding and utilizing the fivefold is THE KEY to healthy, thriving organizations across the board whether in business, church or elsewhere.

By understanding 5Q, we are able to assess the health and capacity of our organizations, churches and businesses included. Hirsch traces biblical foundations, primordial forms and archetypes and ultimately the life of Jesus as the architect and builder of 5Q. Jesus shows us that the patterns of 5Q can be used to understand and assess His ministry as well as his commandments to the church. He outlines the fivefold functionality of the church and society at large. In utilizing 5Q, we have a clear trajectory for how to impart, empower and deploy the greatest move of God the world has ever seen! Hirsch gives numerous accounts of how utilizing 5Q in our organizations will invariably lead to transformation on all levels of society.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  1. It is not coincidental that this breakthrough has come at a time in my life when my spiritual life has never been better–I am experiencing God in a whole new dimension. I find myself spending whole days in prayer and meditation. My prayer life is rich to the point of overflow. In a real way, I believe that 5Q has played a significant role in this sense of overflow. 5Q feels both personal to me, but I also feel its universal significance.
  2. If you want transformational gospel movement–really want it–then you are going to have to unlearn some very ancient churchly habits and be willing to relearn some new–and yet paradoxically more ancient–more authentically biblical ones. You’re a leader; I speak to you as a leader responsible for your generation.
  3. In fact, I hope to show, fivefold-thinking (5Q) reaches into our deepest instincts for ministry by reconnecting the ministry of Christ with the Body of Christ.
  4. Jesus “gave” APEST to the church, distributing it among all the people as he sees fit. It is vital that you, the reader, feel the weight of the grammar that Paul uses to talk about the constitutional givenness of the APEST ministries to the church. The verb form used for “given” (Gk. edothe, the aorist indicative form of didomi) is an aorist indicative, a very resolute verb form perfectly suited for use in constitutions. This is because aorists reflect actions that took place in the past and as such they are once-and-for-all-time events. The effects of the past event are still felt in the present. They are historic in a similar way that the signing of the Declaration of Independence was historic—it will impact America’s self-understanding for all time…Jesus is actually present in the church, and by which he extends his own ministry through us.
  5. Because they operate within a system, each individual APEST function enriches, counterbalances, and “corrects” the particular bias of each of the others.
  6. The good news is that all five functions/callings are like seeds latent in the system. They are already there by virtue of the defining Word of God. This is a liberating idea—all the potential for a tree is actually already in the seed; we don’t need to mess much with that. What we need to do is simply focus on the environment that will allow the seed to flourish.
  7. [M]issional movements are essentially a recovery of the apostolic impulse; prayer and justice movements are manifestations of the prophetic impulse; revivals are an aspect of evangelistic; community and charismatic renewal is a recovery of the pastoral ministry; and theological renewals are largely related to a rediscovery of some lost motif in Scripture.
  8. It is this relationship between high internal resonance and explicit social patterning that this chapter seeks to address. The idea here will be to try to connect the resonance that you should feel in regards to APEST functions and callings with the community in which you are called to express faith.
  9. Giving the answer is always easier than teaching the process…I often say to leaders that we can change our structures in four to eight months, but it takes four to eight years to change our culture.
  10. We see the five marks of the church defined by APEST as follows: missional impact (A), covenant faithfulness (P), gospel proclamation (E), reconciled community (S), deep wisdom (T).

Near the end of the book, Hirsch quotes Peter Berger who notes, “Ideas do not succeed in history by virtue of their truth but by virtue of their relationship to specific social processes,” and as such we are called not only to revel in fun ideas, but to actually begin applying them. Thus, my personal plan to 5Q implementation: do it. In all seriousness, I am indebted to Hirsch and the rest of his team for packaging a biblical, theological treatise on 5Q. For me and my team, we typically think about church in three terms: personal growth, community growth, and missional growth. These are the outworking of pondering Jesus’ Great Commandment (love God, love others) and Great Commission (make disciples in the world). If we are affect the cultural fabric of society, speak truth to power and life to dry bones, plant the seeds of the good news and win souls for Christ, gather God’s sons and daughters, and ensure God’s Truth is passed on correctly, we are in desperate need of 5Q thinking, systems and action. APEST provides an excellent framework, aspects of which we are already integrating. We speak cultural transformation (A), share the good news regularly (E), and teach truth (T), but I have seen how we can and must grow in all areas of APEST and I’m confident with teaching and tools outlined in this book, we are already on the right path.

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and check out additional resources online. The diagrams offered are more than worth the price of admission. Hirsch will offer insights into the fivefold ministry that will shape your ongoing business and ministry endeavors.

Leadership Development: 7 Must-Have Relationships

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Learning and growth is a lifelong experience. God’s training in our lives is useful for more than we know. Our word “discipleship” comes from the word “discipline.” God disciplines his children for their benefit so that they’ll grow into all He has prepared them to be (Hebrews 12:8). Discipline isn’t punishment, it’s growth. In my context (Aroma Coffee and Church), we want to walk with each other through a process of training and preparation for the greatness God has planned for each person. Although no process is perfect, we seek to strategize a method for preparing leaders through three stages of discipleship. Each stage has different trainings, opportunities for service, and overall outcomes.

Leaders in Training will follow a process similar to this. We know life is complicated and busy. We’re not trying to inundate our people with a long list of things to do. In fact, we believe much of this should happen in the context of relationships and life connection. Thus, we’re outlining a list of 7 major relational steps. Leadership development is done in the crucible of relationships, not by accomplishing a list of tasks or attending a number of classes. In the context of these relationships, we learn about life and leadership. We are formed into the character of Christ and learn to walk in the capacity of our gifts. We clearly define vision for your life and see how that fits into our ministry contexts. These seven relational steps were outlined for ongoing discussions in our coffee shop and church.

As you read through this, imagine yourself in your own context. Then, ask yourself where you’re at and what it would take for you to pursue the next step in relational leadership development. 

  1. Crowds are people who are attracted to something but might not even know why. To these people we say, “See you Sunday.” Our hope is that if you’re aspiring in leadership you would regularly make it to church on Sunday. Don’t forsake the fellowship of believers (Hebrews 10:25). Here you’ll learn about your identity in Christ and be challenged to receive from Truth in Scripture, sing songs to Jesus, and pray for each other.
  2. Friends are people who are interested in a little deeper connection. They are willing to go deeper with God and people through Small Groups. The early church cherished these small meetings as some of the most transformative times of life (Acts 2:42-47). Some people became believers in this context. Others grew deeply in their personal life and longing for loving each other. We also encourage you to go through a new believer’s class, get some basic discipleship understanding and form a habit of reading the Bible and praying everyday.
  3. Committed people are willing to Serve in an area. Some forms of service are wildly life giving. We will get to those soon. But first, we want to encourage you to serve somewhere in Aroma. Choose a simple place. Remain committed there for a season. Show God and those around you your willingness to stay committed to him even without accolades or fun mountain-top experiences (Matthew 10:42). Oftentimes, this is where people begin to sense a life calling. When we respond to what God is doing by humble service, He shows up in amazing ways. Committed people serve together.
  4. Followers go through a season of Learning and Growth. We realize that we have committed to something way beyond our own capacity. It stirs in us a hunger for more. This is where your character formation continues in Spirit and in Truth. We want you to understand more about spiritual gifts, walking by the Spirit, and living in the fullness of God. In this time, you read through the entire Bible, read other books, go to trainings, and spend time discussing leadership together, including how to make strategies and handle difficult situations and people. It’s at this time, if you haven’t already, that you need to grab some kind of a mentor figure and hold on to them tightly. Have at least one person in your life of whom you can ask questions and who will support and challenge you on your journey.
  5. Family is a strong word. We’re reserving it for a group of people who have made a deeper commitment to the Lord and each other. These people have covenanted together. Even Jesus had a process of walking with people from being merely friends to becoming followers and eventually family. In this season, we encourage you to make a commitment to a track of intimacy in relationship and ministry preparation. This includes things like joining a Huddle, committing to being a Core Member in small group or going through a year-long training called Support Team. During this time, you form more mentorship relationships and begin to fill something called the Table of Support, an outline for how to maintain healthy mentoring relationships. You open yourself to challenge from others. You show their ultimate willingness to submit and surrender to God by submitting to the leadership that God has put in place at Aroma.
  6. Core describes a group of people who go through another season of extended Learning and Growth. Like the disciples Peter, James and John, core people are taken to greater depths in their walk with God for a purpose, similar to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17). They had special experiences with Jesus and as such they were given more difficult responsibilities. Jesus always takes us through seasons of invitation and challenge. His ultimate goal is that we would be shaped into His image, to represent Him to the world so that Heaven can come to Earth and all people on Earth can go to Heaven. During this season you grow in your capacity for ministry in a particular area through things like training certifications and deep coaching relationships. You develop a high capacity for leadership and see yourself as long-term leader in The Aroma and beyond.
  7. Faithful Creators are people who pursue a legacy. They live for something beyond themselves. They long to see their [spiritual] children’s children flourish. They live out a full Table of Support, initiating and sustaining relationships that fill their life with meaning and purpose. By this time, you are learning to pass on your character and capacity to those around you, raising up others (Ephesians 4:12) to do the greater works Jesus promised (John 14:12). As you humbly walk before God, you are given increasing authority for the purpose of raising others up and serving the people.

Where do you fit in right now? Are you simply showing up as a member of the crowd? Or have you shown an intense interest in covenanting together with your people even to the point of producing legacy beyond yourselves?

Paths of Mentorship


Within many of my circles (family, professional development, ministry, business), we talk about mentorship, coaching, accountability, as well as a whole list of other words that carry similar meanings. 
I recently asked a person I consider as somewhere on this continuum about his thoughts on mentoring. As he began explaining how various people interact with him in different contexts, it became apparent to me that we often use a word (the choice differs depending on which circle you’re in) to indicate several options. The following four paths seek to describe basic functions a mentor-type person can take.

  1. Peer / Accountability Partner. A peer mentor, or an accountability partner, will challenge and affirm you. They are your own age and often understand the struggles you’re going through, because they are going through the same ones. You meet as often as you like. You can trust each other. 
  2. Sage / Back-Patter. A sage is someone who has gone through it all and stands there simply to tell you that you’re doing well. If you play your cards right, they will give some age-old advice that you’ll benefit from greatly. 
  3. Coach / Plan Maker. Coaches ask great questions and help you to make insightful plans. These are the people who never tell you what to do, but always find a way to make you do what’s best. 
  4. Yoda / Discerner. Whenever Luke needed it, Yoda was always around to blow his mind with insightful thoughts posed in backwards grammar. Your Yoda comes with timely emails, texts or phone calls that always seem to be right on target. Yoda shouldn’t be afraid to nail you for something you’re not doing right. Yoda needs space to speak into any area of your life. And when he speaks, listen, you should. 

One problem with our generation is that we shy away from some of these forms of mentorship. When we avoid allowing peers, sages, coaches, and yodas to speak into our lives, we miss the blessing that comes along with them.
It’s important that we have people around us who operate in all of these differing paths. Yet, we all tend to prefer a certain function. Did I miss any valuable paths? Which one of these fits you well? Which do you need more of? How can you pursue finding someone to fill this role. Do you have someone you are mentoring now? What does that look like? How does this add clarity to your relationship? 

I want to be like Southwest Airlines

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Collins and Hansen have written an excellent research-based book called “Great by Choice” in which they surveyed companies that outperformed their tumultuous industries and times by 10x or more. People who lead these organizations are affectionately called “10xers.”

One excellent example is Southwest Airlines. If you invested $10,000 in Southwest in 1972, your investment would have been worth $12,000,000 in 2002. That’s 63.4x better than the market and 550.4x better than their industry. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the book.

Myths we believe about successful organizations in turbulent times:

  • Successful leaders have to be bold, risk-seeking visionaries. Instead, figure out what worked, why it worked and build on proven foundations. Be more disciplined, empirical and paranoid.
  • Innovation distinguishes 10x companies in a fast-moving, uncertain and chaotic world. Instead, be able to scale innovation and blend creativity with discipline.
  • A threat-filled world favors the speedy; you’re either quick or you’re dead. Instead, figure out when to go fast and when not to.
  • Radical change on the outside requires radical change on the inside. Instead, change less.
  • Great enterprises with 10x success have a lot more good luck. Instead, it’s about what you do with luck (good and bad) when you get it.

Points to emphasize as you lead your organization:

  • Fanatic Discipline keeps you on track. Discipline is consistency of action, values, long-term goals, performance standards, and method. The highest form is self-discipline. Fanatic discipline stays the course and goes well beyond any “normal curve.”
  • Empirical Creativity keeps you vibrant. Empirical creativity is about direct observation, experiments, and gathering evidence. Most people turn to authority figures, peers, group norms for advice. 10xers gather their own evidence. They don’t favor analysis over action; they favor empiricism as the foundation for decisive action.
  • Productive Paranoia keeps you alive. Paranoia says, “Events could turn against me at any moment. They will. I’d better be prepared.” It’s not about paranoia per say, but about “effective action.” It’s about being hypervigilant. Productive paranoia keeps conservative financial positions and prepares for the unexpected.
  • Level 5 Ambition provides inspired motivation. Channel the “ego and intensity” into something larger and more enduring than yourself. It’s about building a great company, changing the world, achieving a great object that’s ultimately not about you. Level 5 leaders have personal humility and professional will. They hold inspired standards as more important than inspiring personality. The central question: “What are you in it for?” The answer is “impact, contribution and purpose” over “money, fame and power.”

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For me, this looks like

  • gathering consistent people around me and being a consistent person myself. This includes values, strategies and standards. It’s about developing self-discipline. The Holy Spirit gives the fruit of self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit first filled someone for the arts and “all kinds of skills” (Exodus 33:1-3).
  • thinking deeply and looking into details even when it’s uncomfortable. The Holy Spirit gives gifts of words of wisdom and words of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8). Luke, who wrote to of the longest books of the New Testament, was a doctor that wrote with incredible detail for that era. As an example, we learn a lot about how Jesus died and rose again because Luke wrote with a high level of detail and checked his facts.
  • preparing for the unexpected; counting the cost. (Luke 14:25-34). We read over and over about the preparations David made to fight in battle. He wasn’t just hoping that things would go well. He knew that God would make him victorious, and he prepared for that victory. He often cited the exact number of men and supplies he was taking with him into battle. 
  • reminding myself and others around me about the bigger vision we have: we’re changing the world (Habakkuk 2:2). Jesus gives a vision of love and what we could be that compelled him beyond his comfort zone. Vision gives pain a purpose and personal humility mixed with aspiration to do something great is what will lead us boldly to new heights. 

Let’s fly like Southwest as we lead our organizations to 10x contributions.

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7 Words of Wisdom in Leadership

We’ve had the privilege of serving with Yinkon Her over the last six weeks.  He’s brought a fresh vibrance and perspective to The Aroma and we are super-grateful.  On one of our last bike rides together, we spent time sharing highlights and insights into the time we’ve spent together.  As we biked down the riverside and chatted, it became apparent to me that we are shaping the future of business, the church, and missions.  The things we say and do today, the attitudes and postures that we adopt, create what these pillars of society will look like years from now.  This is why it’s so important that we stay close to the Creator of all things and pursue more of what he has for us.

Here are some of the Words of Wisdom we left with each other:

  1. Never stop learning.  Books, articles, seminars, videos, conversations, no matter how you do it, never stop learning. It will be increasingly important that we synthesize information and concepts from a plethora of fields.  If you’re in business, read stuff about business.  But don’t stop there.  Read science.  Read medical. Read philosophy. Never stop learning.
  2. Spend more time in the prayer room. Your best and most important connection is to God.  Let Him be an abundant resource to you, a resource of strength, joy, passion, insight, and inspiration.
  3. Develop deeper relationships with those close to you. Invest as much as you can in the people around you and don’t let your emotions run to the point where it damages your relationship.  Invest in the people close to you.  Invest time.  Invest money. Invest your heart.  Invest your resources.  Invest your connections.  Invest everything you have.  The better they are, the better off you will be.
  4. Keep your cool.  When the situation gets tough, don’t settle for short-sided emotional outbursts or depressed thinking.  Especially in leadership, many people follow your lead on emotions.  If you allow yourself to be overwhelmed with a situation, others will do the same.  Conversely, if you keep your cool in tough situations, realizing that the worst case scenario usually isn’t that bad, you’ll end up avoiding a lot of tough situations and you want have to apologize as much (because you don’t make the stupid remarks that get you in trouble in the first place).
  5. Balance work and family time. “Religiously” adhere to time devoted to your family.  Make sure you’re there when you’re there.  Don’t let work or ministry or other things distract you from the incredible opportunity you have with your family.  God will bless you for setting time aside to be with them.
  6. Find a mentor (bull pen). Gather people around you from all areas of life who can speak into your situation.  Get doctors for medical stuff, business people for strategies and insight, pastors for people care, etc.  Spend time with these people when you can.  Skype them more often than that.  Don’t limit yourself to a certain geographical location.  Rather, gather the best of the best around you and allow them to challenge you.
  7. Focus. Whatever you’re setting out to do, focus on it.  Say no to the things that distract you from bringing this about.  Be disciplined.  Don’t give in to lesser things.  Set big goals and go after them.
  8. Drink a salt coffee every Monday. Get some fun habits in your life that you can share with people you care about.  Even do some things that are beyond your natural sense of desires.

Thank you, Yinkon. You have forever left a mark on Aroma and we can’t wait to see you back here again.

How about you? What’s your word of wisdom for leadership?

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