Ask Rick Christian: Getting Personal

This is our regular column of frequently (and not-so-frequently) asked questions with Alive’s Founder and CEO, Rick Christian. Over the weeks, we’ll cover everything from negotiation strategy and all things literary, lying, his manliest possession and most terrifying moment, his own ultimate demise…and everything in between!

Let’s start off with some quick basics about you, and how Alive got started. First, you’ve got a funny name. S. Rickly Christian?

My friends call me Rick or Rickly, my mom’s maiden name.


Paul-Bunyan-Babe-13or6nd-1-What is your manliest possession?

My chainsaw. I live on 25 acres in Colorado’s Black Forest and do an immense amount of fire mitigation and thinning.


Your most feminine possession?

I carry a male bag, like the Europeans. My kids call it a purse.


What are the traits you most dislike in others?

Sloth and bigotry.


How about in yourself?

Greed and pride are ugly in any incarnation.


When you spot them in the mirror, what do you do?

I’m not sure you always see your own stuff clearly, and so I take preventive action. Years ago, I told a friend that I didn’t want to get soft at this stage in life and asked if he’d take me someplace in the world where I could experience the true reality of life. Everything came into focus after two weeks in Calcutta, working in the worst of the slums and AIDS hospices. Ever since, my wife and I have continued helping those who live in extreme poverty and suffer from pandemic but preventable disease, especially widows and orphans. That’s our reality check.


Do you have a favorite quote?

On my desk, I’ve framed a piece from Siegfried Unself that makes authors smile and publishers nervous. It goes, “One of the signs of Napoleon’s greatness is the fact that he once had a publisher shot.”


What is your most disgusting habit?

I’m fond of an occasional cigar with my peeps. We call our group Holy Smokes.


What’s your best life tip?

Put extra trash liners in the bottom of each trash can? Don’t quit your day job? Aside from that, I’ve suggested that my kids identify one person in each of the decades ahead of them–somebody in their 30′s, 40′s, 50′s, 60′s, etc.–who they truly admire. I tell them these “decade mentors” didn’t just wake up at a later stage in life to find they were admirable people, but had incorporated certain traits and habits in their lives along the way and had practiced what Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction.”


How about a favorite Bible verse?

It really depends on the season of life and particulars of the moment. But I resonate with the theme of John 9:4. “All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by God, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end.” I’m big on staying engaged and not sitting on the sidelines.


What’s on your nightstand these days?

I always keep several going at once. Right now I’ve got a Robert Frost collection, Wendell Barry’s brilliant novel, “Jayber Crow,” John Baillie’s “A Diary of Private Prayer” for inspiration, and Daniel James Brown’s must-read, “The Boys in the Boat,” about nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The latter resonates with me because I was on the crew team in college. I’m also reading several client manuscripts, and am particularly enthralled by Matt Heard’s Life with a Capital L, which deserves a very large audience. Our agents are all word people and heavy readers–we devour books, discuss them together and in our respective book groups. It’s our way of staying engaged with distinct voices and great ideas. Reading keeps us alive.


When were you most afraid?

Hunting cape buffalo in Zimbabwe, hands down. Moving in for the shot from 200 yards to 100 and then to 50 was terrifying, because capes kill more hunters than any animal in the world. They’re big as an SUV, short legged, black as midnight, have a rack of steel, are horribly vindictive, and on top of that they hate being shot. The web is covered with clips of capes that just erupt after being shot and chase the hunter down. I was with a guy who’d been gored twice, so I was ready for the worst. When I stepped off the plane in Africa, I entered the food chain—and not on the highest rung. So my will was up to date.

Want to learn more from Rick?
Check out the Ask Rick Christian column