Last week I was able to share lunch with senior business student, and IWU basketball player, Jacob Johnson. If you have spent any time around the men on our basketball team or their coach, Mr. Greg Tonagel, you might be familiar with the “I Am Third” philosophy that permeates this group of men. I left my lunch with Jacob encouraged to see yet another fabulous example of the fruit of the “I Am Third” mission.
During lunch, Jacob humbly shared what an impact IWU, and specifically IWU basketball has had upon his life. He was a believer prior to coming to IWU, but it became clear as I listened to Jacob share his story, that it has been here, as a student at IWU and a member of this team that his relationship with the Lord has been transformed from head knowledge of what it means to follow Christ to a heart experience. Jacob talked about struggling to adjust to the drastically different mindset of IWU basketball where he explains that, “his coaches truly care more about me as a person than what I can accomplish on the court.” After two years of watching and listening, Jacob explained that he finally “bought in” and fully embraced a new way of living life. He decided to go “all in” and make the commitment encouraged of him by his coaches – to do everything for the Lord and others first.
Coach Tonagel preaches “I Am Third” which means – God first, others second, and I am third. They measure success by their teammates growth. They play for each other. Greg describes his goal for his team as this: “We want to develop men who will leave our program to be “I Am Third” men in their homes as husbands and dads, in their communities, in their churches, and in their work places.”
Jacob caught the vision, and put it into practice in his life as a college student, and as an entrepreneur. During his freshman year, his best friend from back home called asking if he’d like to build a drone together. Jacob loved the idea and within months the two formed a partnership that has turned into a thriving business called ALPS (Aerial Logistics and Production Services). These young men recognized a business opportunity in drone inspection services. Companies in service industries now use drones for inspection work, but they do not always want to be in the drone business (purchasing, certifying, licensing, piloting, etc.). Jacob and his partner have been there to meet this growing need.
They have four pilots and they are in the early stages of spreading their network nationally. While Jacob is licensed to pilot drones, his partner does most of the flying while he maintains his focus on sales, networking, business development, accounting and so forth. In the beginning, they did deeply discounted work in order to get new business, gain credibility and generate referrals. He explains that the business has exploded in the last six months and he is excited to graduate and make ALPS his full-time work. Check out their website to learn what these innovative and highly motivated young men are doing: www.alpscompany.com
As I listened to Jacob talk about ALPS, I was amazed by the tone of his conversation. He exuded praise for his professors who have mentored him both practically and spiritually as he has walked the road of learning how to grow a new business. He spoke about the amazing business growth that has taken place during the busiest season of his life. He explained that when he decided to go “all in” with the Lord, the things in life that should have been impossible came to fruition and the things in life that should have overwhelmed him did not. He says, “We see that God’s hand is in it [this business]. He gets the glory. We pray over all of it and trust God.”
I asked Jacob if he had any advice for other college students. He did not hesitate—take risks while you are young, fail early and often learning from your mistakes, find mentors who can walk beside you, and don’t be afraid to put in the work. Persistence is important. He quoted Colossians 3:23 ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men’ and proceeded to explain how choosing to focus on this verse has changed everything he does, “I’m doing this for the Lord. We want it all to point back to God.”
To say that I came away from lunch encouraged is an understatement. Jacob has learned an invaluable life lesson – how to practically put God first in all things. He has practiced that while he has been a student at IWU and I know he will continue doing so when he leaves this institution. I was also encouraged because Jacob is speaking truth that is good for ME to hear. Putting God first in all things. I am third.
To read Jacob’s blog on the IWUhoops.net site, visit: https://www.iwuhoops.net/blog/#welcome-to-the-blog-1
David Wright and Jill Pederson