Baby Girls and Startups

By Life Lessons No Comments

Last week, I had an email exchange with Merrick Lozano of I’ve known Merrick for many years and enjoyed watching him grow his company while also building a family.


I asked him about how he was enjoying his new baby girl. I don’t have kids now and often wondered just how some entrepreneurs manage the balance of a growing company – which takes and extraordinary amount of time – and balancing family. Here’s the email thread:

Steven: Hey Merrick – thanks for the advice. Hope all is well. How’s the family?

Merrick: It’s awesome! Just enjoying the new baby, she’s almost 3 months now.

 Sent from my iPhone
Steven: Unbelievable! Congrats my brother! I’m FINALLY thinking about what it would be like to have one…

Merrick: Thank you. 3 girls is a handful!  🙂

Babies are amazing, my first one gave new meaning to my life.  They are rewarding and a ton of work. I am blessed to have a wife who wants to stay home so that makes it a lot easier. I think there’s a big valley from bachelor to papa, and a wonderful woman makes it easy to get to the other side… Honestly, I don’t think anyone is actually prepared to be a first time parent. But, much like a first time founder, you just become incredibly motivated to succeed. Nothing goes as planned, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Steven: Wise words, my friend. Certainly gives me something to chew on.
I guess having children is similar to doing a startup in that you’re never quite all the way ready, nothing goes as planned, you need a strong team to succeed, and, in the end, it’s worth the sacrifice.
Thanks Merrick. I needed that.
Comment below: what’s been your experience with balancing home and work?

“What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?”

By Company Culture, Life Lessons, No Comments

Good Business Advice

Each week at, I ask my employees a question. This activity gives us time together as a group and helps us all get to know each other better. We always ask questions that are structured around developing community within the company. Last week, I asked “What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?” Here were some of their responses:


“Back in elementary and middle school, I used to compete a lot in speech and poetry reading contests. My dad, who was my speech coach, always advised me not to fixate on my competitors and instead focus on myself. For this reason, during the competition, once someone completed an excellent performance, my mantra before taking the stage was: ‘while they are good, I’m better.’ As an adult, I cherish his advice more than ever as it is easy to get distracted by your surroundings”


“Aside from the common ‘invest and diversify’ (I think over the next 10 to 20 years Quantum dots and MRAM are going to become very important technologies), an insightful friend of mine once said (and I hope I don’t misrepresent this) that he believes that everyone always makes the best decisions based on what they know at the time.

He was describing some of the stupid decisions I’ve made in the past, but I still think it’s an important message of understanding and forgiveness.”


“Don’t take things too seriously.”


“Don’t try to get every single person you meet to like you. Just like you don’t naturally like everyone you meet, everyone won’t necessarily like you. Save time and energy by just being yourself. (Of course, rules of civility still apply).”


“To quote Conan O’Brien..”



“Sometimes you have to be small to be BIG.”


“Todo a su tiempo, meaning everything at it’s time.”


“Start saving your money early.”

Personally, some of the best advice I have ever received were the following:

don't half-ass things

  • “Thoughts ARE things. What you think about, you manifest.”
  • “The past and the future don’t exist..only the present matters.”
  • “Better to be kind than to be right.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?

Adding Value to People

By Life Lessons No Comments

I was talking to a friend last night who was introducing me to a  friend of his. Here’s how he described him:

“Mike is an incredible human being. I want to be around him because he tries to add value to every interaction and to every person he can. I always feel better when I spend time with Mike.”

It got me thinking, “Do I do that? Do I purposely seek to add value?” And I couldn’t answer yes.

But I want to.

So, for November, my intention is going to be to consciously think at the beginning of an interaction, “How can I enrich this person and add value to their lives?” Even if it’s just a kind word or a smile, I’ll seek to add value.

Notice how this removes the thought, “How can they help me? or What’s in it for me?”. It puts the focus back where it belongs.


Seek to Add Value


Favorite Recipes from the TakeLessons Crew

By Food and Drink No Comments

Chef Once a week, I send a fun question to everyone in the company to help us get to know each other. It’s part of building a great culture.

Last week, we asked, “Do you have any great recipes you want to share with your teammates?”

An here are all the answers. Enjoy these great recipes from the team at TakeLessons!

Smiley Martel

I tossed this together this morning (Saturday.) It’s shredded pork with a Texmex flavor. I intentionally used simple units, and also went light on the spices. If you find that you prefer more flavor then double everything except the meat and salt.

3 to 5 pounds pork shoulder (boneless or bone-in)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 Tablespoon chili powder (I make my own, ask me if you want that recipe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (or 2 or 3 teaspoons chopped chipotle in adobo)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Place the meat in a slow cooker and cover with all the remaining ingredients, turning the meat over so all sides are covered. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours. You can also brown the meat, saute the onions and garlic, stir-in and heat the spices to develop more flavor before adding them all to the slow cooker. Once cooked to the point that the meat will easily shred, serve any way you prefer. I like corn tortillas, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, and chopped white onions with minced cilantro and lime juice.

You can substitute other meats like beef or chicken. For chicken I’d replace the tomato with the juice (and some pulp) of an orange. For beef I think I’d skip the coriander and add a bay leaf.

I’m sure you can also make this on the stove top or in the oven, but you’ll probably need to add about half to one cup of water with the other ingredients. Use a dutch oven or similar heatsafe pot. In the oven I think I’d cook it for about 3 hours at about 400 degrees. On the stove top I think I’d cook it on low heat for about 3 to 5 hours, turning the meat over occasionally.

Avatar.154 Dana

There’s an awesome, easy to make Bruschetta that I love.

Combine a container of cherry tomatoes with a container of kalamata olives and feta. (You can usually find mixes like this pre-made near the deli section of a grocery store.)

Double check that there are no pits in any of the olives, and make sure all of the oil from the olive/feta mix is included.

Add extra feta, and minced garlic to taste.

Mix it all up and spread it in a pan.

Bake at about 375 until the tomatoes burst and the cheese has browned a little.

Take it out of the oven and sprinkle some balsamic vinegar across the top.

Eat with whatever kind of bread you choose. I like to cut up a baguette and toast it a little.

Avatar.154 Christopher

Best way to make a hot dog
-Toasted bun
-hot dog (jalapeno dog if you can)
-cream cheese

Avatar.154 Amanda

I’m always in charge of bringing the vegetarian dishes for family holidays. I found this recipe a few years ago and now everyone demands it! The only changes I’ve made: watch the oil- you probably won’t use everything they say you will, split the bell peppers between red and green, and add lots of whole garlic cloves.

Avatar.154 Christopher

1 cup flour, 1/4 cup milk, 2 eggs… Mix dough, scrape into boiling water… super easy. Makes me miss Germany

Avatar.154 Michael

Spicy Eggplant

2 Chinese Eggplants Diced
1 Rib Eye Steak – cubed (you can buy cubed beef, but it’s normally from the shoulder of the cow)
1 Yellow Onion Chopped
1 Broccoli “Crown” (I think that’s what it’s called)
1 TBSP Oyster Sauce
1 TBSP Spicy Chili Sauce
1 TBSP Soy Sauce
1 TSP Pepper
1 TBSP Canola Oil
1 TBSP Sesame Oil

1) Brown cubed meat then set aside
2) Cook eggplant thoroughly
3) Add onions broccoli
4) Once onions and broccoli cook, add Oyster sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce and pepper.
5) Add browned meat
6) Cook on med-low for 10 minutes
7) Drizzle sesame oil and serve

Avatar.154 Allen:

Spicy Eggplant

2 Chinese Eggplants Diced
1 Rib Eye Steak – cubed (you can buy cubed beef, but it’s normally from the shoulder of the cow)
1 Yellow Onion Chopped
1 Broccoli “Crown” (I think that’s what it’s called)
1 TBSP Oyster Sauce
1 TBSP Spicy Chili Sauce
1 TBSP Soy Sauce
1 TSP Pepper
1 TBSP Canola Oil
1 TBSP Sesame Oil

1) Brown cubed meat then set aside
2) Cook eggplant thoroughly
3) Add onions broccoli
4) Once onions and broccoli cook, add Oyster sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce and pepper.
5) Add browned meat
6) Cook on med-low for 10 minutes
7) Drizzle sesame oil and serve

Smiley Suzanne

This is my kind of cooking:
Put 4-5 chicken breasts in crockpot. Cover with salsa, any kind. Throw in spices, depending on what you’re feeling like that day. Turn crockpot on. Leave cooking for 6 hours. DONE.

Avatar.154 Steven

Hello Beautiful People,

This recipe comes from one of our early peeps, Lori Wilcox. She now runs a personal chef business called Food Made Fresh (

Here is her recipe for fabulous Chicken Cordon Bleu.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Roasted Delicata Squash

Serves 4

2 lbs chicken breast, trimmed

½ tsp pepper

¼ tsp salt

6 tbl shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

2 tbl reduced fat cream cheese

¼ cup dry bread crumbs

3 tsp parsley, chopped

1 tbl olive oil

¼ cup ham, diced small


1 lb Delicata squash- sliced

2 medium ripe pears- cored and sliced

2 tsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

2 tbl water

1 tbl brown sugar

1 tsp chili powder

4 slices bacon, microwave until crisp & broken into chunks


Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon pepper and salt.

Combine cheese and cream cheese in a bowl. Combine the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper with breadcrumbs, parsley (or thyme), and 1 teaspoon oil in another bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a medium, ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Move the chicken to the center so the pieces are touching. Spread with the cheese mixture, sprinkle with ham, then top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F, 5 to 7 minutes.

FOR SQUASH – Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Toss in a large bowl with pears, oil, salt, and pepper.

Spread on a large baking sheet. Roast the squash and pears until just tender, stirring once or twice, 20 to 25 minutes. Heat 2 tsp olive oil Over medium heat, stir in water, brown sugar, and chili powder. Add the squash and pears; toss to coat. Crumble the bacon on top.

Smiley Erik

This one comes from the white trash side of my distant ancestry, maybe Missouri.
Sh*t on a Shingle:
1-2 Cups of milk
1/2 – 1 stick of butter
1/2 – 1 cup of flour
Some frozen peas
Some Buddig Beef (thin slice)
Toast, freshly made, 1 slice per person
Salt & pepper to taste

Make the sauce first: mix milk, butter in saucepan till butter melted. Stir in flour to thicken to however thick/thin you like. As it simmers, drop in peas and beef. Simmer maybe 5 mins…just eyeball and taste it to know when it’s ready. Put toast on serving plate, pour sauce over toast, et voila! Dat’s some good eats. Then go see your cardiologist.

Smiley Timothy

Heck yes! Kale Chips are super easy to make and so good for you.

Get some kale. Any kind will do. Wash and dry the leaves and then rip into chip-sized pieces. Lightly coat the leaves with olive oil and salt (and vinegar too if you like that. I do!) and make sure to massage all the oil into the leaves so they’re coated.

Put the leaves on a sheet pan and bake at 325 for 20 or so minutes. They will get super crisp. Take pan out and enjoy. Amazingly healthy, no calories, taste very much like potato chips!

Smiley David

I am not really a “recipe” type guy. I am much more of the “order from a restaurant, put the food in my dishes, and quickly throw away the boxes and pretend you are awesome” type guy.

Avatar.154 Carrie

Black beans and sweet potato fries mixed and fixed any way…over chips w Valentina, in a quesadilla w cheese and guac, rolled in tortillas and baked. SO MANY OPTIONS!! 🙂

Smiley Hanam

-Greek pasta with blue cheese
Everyone so far who’s hated blue cheese really LOVE this dish. I have yet to be proven wrong.

-No-frills oven roasted chicken
Unlike costco/ralphs chicken, this simple oven roasted chicken cooking technique will not make the chicken salty. The skin will crust, and will act like a membrane to keep the juices into the chicken until you cut open the skin (AMAZING).

-Baked Buffalo chicken wings with Baking Powder
Much like the chicken above, the wings will crust, but will leave the inside completely moist. Here’s an in-depth analysis of it:

-Make better burgers
Skip those dry Costco patties, here are some tips on making the next perfect burger:

Avatar.154 Adam

Hmmm, I don’t cook anything too spectacular, but I like to make cocktails so here’s my Old Fashioned recipe:

in an Old Fashioned glass:
-muddle 1 cube of sugar, 1-2 dashes of Angostura bitters, and a slice of orange
-fill the glass with ice
-add a splash of club soda
-top off with bourbon or rye whiskey
-garnish with a cherry

Avatar.154 Maria

FRUIT PIZZA! Oh yeah, I eat fruit.

¾ Cup of Butter softened
½ Cup of Powdered Sugar
1½ Cup flour
Preheat Oven to 300 degrees –
Beat butter & sugar until fluffy.
Blend in flour.
Press Mixture into bottom side of 12” round pizza pan
Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned – Cool completely
Spread filling on top
1 8 oz. package of Cream Cheese
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
Cream cream cheese, sugar & vanilla mixing until well blended.
Spread over crust; arrange fruit over cream cheese mixture
¼ Cup sugar
1 TBSP cornstarch
*½ Cup pineapple juice
½ teaspoon Lemon Juice
In small saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch; Stir in juices
Cook over medium heat; stir constantly until thick. Cool.
Pour this Mixture over fruit as a glaze.

Avatar.154 Danae

I have two!!

1. Hollow out apples and bake with cinnamon and sugar inside. After it’s done baking, fill with ice cream and caramel!!

2. Cupcake pizzas!!

What You Need:
Pillsbury Refrigerated Pizza Dough
Pizza Sauce
Shredded Cheese
Cupcake Tin

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (as the package directed) and grease the cupcake pan.
Separate the dough into 5 equal parts. Push the dough into the molds; try to make the dough cover the sides.
Cover dough with pizza sauce, cheese and pepperoni.
Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Avatar.154 Shawn

Yes, You put the lime in the coconut!

Avatar.154 Kristi
Avatar.154 Gina

I don’t cook– any recipes help 🙂

Avatar.154 Joseph

Home Made Surf and Turf burritos. No proportions I just cook as much as I need for the fambam.
Carne Asada (Pan fried with onions and butter)
Shrimp (Tails cut off, pre cooked, heated in Pan)
Sour Cream
Refried Beans
Guacamole (with sour cream)
Pico de Gayo
All thrown into a large Flour Tortilla and enjoy.

Avatar.154 Jon

Avocado, salt and chips. Yum!

Avatar.154 Nicholas
Avatar.154 Kathleen

Green Juice: Persian cucumber, celery, spinach, dino kale, parsley, pink lady apple


Cooling green smoothie: coconut water, cucumber, avocado (+a scoop of spirulina for an extra boost)


By Life Lessons, Love No Comments

I had a wonderful conversation a couple weeks ago with a good friend who is about 1,000 times more enlighted than I am. We spoke about life, love, joy, fear, and forgiveness. As we started speaking of forgiveness, I realized that I had some work to do here.

There was parts of me that were still pissed at people for a bunch of past reasons. One stole money from me. One tried to screw me over in business. One was dishonest. One was heartbreaking.

What came to light for me was that all of these past incidents were, well, in the past. The only place they were alive was in my head. Not in the real world – but in my head. And, if that’s the only place they were living, I could – in an instant – decide to put them to bed forever by learning how to forgive.

So, I decided to take his advice and work to let it go – to clear the space in my head that was being used up by past experiences that no longer truly existing in today’s world. Here’s what I wrote after one of my meditation sessions. It summarizes what I did and how I feel:

Today, the word ‘Forgiveness’ is what I worked on.

Today, I realized that if I had animosity towards someone, it was because I was choosing to hold it, not because of an act they had done.

In my heart, I forgave anyone i could think of that i was holding pain against.

I chose to get to a place of acceptance for them, realizing the only reason i felt pain and hurt was because i loved them – because they meant something great to me.

Instead of holding on to my perception of what I wanted from them, I choose to love them again.

I chose to accept them for who they are instead of requiring them to be someone they’re not. I chose to love, instead of waiting for an apology before I was willing to give love.

I learned I don’t need the apology. I only need to work on my own paradigm and filters on how i choose to view them.

I choose love. I choose peace. I choose forgiveness.