15 Questions for Success: Mike Smoke

15 Questions for Success: Mike Smoke

Recently, we have been working hard to bring you quality content on faith and work and plan to continue shedding light on people who are successful in making their work and faith collide in their respective industries. Each entrepreneur and professional featured in our “15 Questions for Success” series provides us with their road map to success and answers questions on how their faith plays out in their careers.

Our latest installment of the “15 Questions for Success” series features Mike Smoke, Second Vice President at Northern Trust Bank . Check out what Mike has to say about faith and work below:


1. When people ask you what you do, how do you answer that?

I work in the Wealth Management department at a bank downtown, I ensure my ultra-high net worth clients have all the information and resources they need to manage their wealth.

2. When you think of the word “successful,” who is the first person that comes to mind and why?

My grandmom, simply because she completed successfully the job that was before her, raising her children, having a successful career herself, and being a pillar in the family.


3. What role does faith play when it comes to your career?

My faith in God gives me the confidence to approach my job and give it all I’ve got. My faith helps me overcome challenging times, reminding me that there are bigger problems in this world, and helps me refocus to come to solutions faster.

4. What does the first 60-90 minutes of your day look like?

Emails, emails and more emails.


5. What are you world-class at that people might not realize?

I am in the people business, so understanding people, reading people to some degree, being high in emotional intelligence is something I consider essential for this role.


6. How has knowing your personality type affected your life and how has it played a role in any life decision?

I think greater than my personality type, understanding who I am and what I bring to the table has helped me in many areas of my life. Understanding who I am at the core, has helped me refocus when something temporarily throws me off my center. I can always go back to center, since I have a strong sense of who I am and who I aspire to be.


7. What do you most love about what you do?

I enjoy helping people, I enjoy solving problems, and thinking big picture about solutions.


8. What should someone ask to determine their passion?

What activity do you do that makes you feel alive? What, when you do it, makes you feel like you have superpowers?


9. How do you define success?

To me, success is feeling good about what you do, from the core of one’s being.


10. What habits or skills are most important to living a successful life?

Authenticity. Being true to who you are and not feeling moved off that block.


11. If you instantly lost everything, what steps would you take to become successful again?

I would rebuild from the place of what’s important to me. Then take baby steps until what I lost is recovered.


12. How do you maintain productivity throughout the day?

Since college, almost every day I write down my daily “TDL”—to do list. I only list 2-5 things, but these things are the big gains that I wish to accomplish by the end of the day. It helps me focus on what really matters.


13. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Listen to your gut and stay consistent at the gym .


14. What books would you recommend on career and business to someone just starting out?

How to Win Friends and Influence People – my favorite.


15. What advice would you give someone interested in making a career change?

Research, research, research. Find peace within, then LEAP.


#HarveyTaughtMe Part 1: Storms and Skeptics

#HarveyTaughtMe Part 1: Storms and Skeptics

I have been working in the city of Houston since 2012 and in my five years of living in the state of Texas I never experienced a “real” hurricane making landfall—until Harvey. What our city experienced was something much more than any of us could have imagined, as so many homes, vehicles, businesses, churches, and lives were lost.

For a bustling city of over 7 million people, Harvey seemed to freeze time as access to every major highway and feeder road was restricted by flood waters. Many families spent days in their homes unable to venture beyond their subdivisions for groceries, medication, or even to help other friends and loved ones in need.

Growing up on the East Coast, I was accustomed to the challenges of snowstorms and blizzards, but I had never experienced a natural disaster that seemed to devastate so many people so quickly. Hurricane Harvey, however, did more than simply usher in a season of destruction and devastation for the city.

Disaster seemingly brings the best and worse out of people, and while I saw a few reports of people taking advantage of the misfortune of others, the sense of love and camaraderie that I witnessed among our people in the aftermath of Harvey was overwhelming. In a season of boiling racial tension, highlighted by the acts of terrorism in Charlottesville, it was refreshing to be in Southeast Texas and watch people of all races, ages and economic backgrounds work together for the benefit of the community.

For a workaholic like myself, Harvey literally slowed me down long enough to reflect on life, God, and the needs of my community.

As our city weathered the storm, I was reminded of the story of Job, a man of God who survived a storm both in his personal life and physically (Job 38:1). As I revisited the text, I was amazed at some of the parallels I saw between Job’s storm experience and our own modern-day experience here in Houston. And, as the storm continued I gleaned lessons that I would like to share with the readers of Urban Faith.

Lesson 1: Skepticism Surfaces In The Storm

“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’ 10 He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:9-10)

Storms never just affect us.

In Job’s case, everything he lost as a result of this “test”—his livestock, servants, and children—Job’s wife lost as well. In this text, she is grieving and her statements to Job suggest that she has a knowledge and maybe even a relationship with God. However, in the face of the loss and hurt, she is feeling her words communicate a distrust or a frustration for this God that Job seemed to cling so closely to.

As I followed social media during Hurricane Harvey, one of my major frustrations surrounded the ways in which people, especially those who were not in Houston during the storm, began to call out churches and pastors in the city for not responding to the crisis in a way that they deemed appropriate. The constant refrain seemed to be, “How could these churches and pastors who live off the offerings and donations of the people of the city be doing NOTHING to help them?”

As a staff clergy member of a larger primarily African American congregation in Houston, it was disheartening reading these posts and hearing the chatter of the skeptics in the crowd. This was especially difficult while being aware of knowing the planning, research, partnerships, and projects our own staff was working on behind the scenes to implement when it was safe to travel back to our building and re-open it.

Storms, disaster, and loss have a way of bringing out the skeptics- those looking for a reason to affirm their distrust for God and the institutions that serve in God’s name. The key is knowing the heart of God (and those who serve God) and remembering that temporary silence is not always an indication of apathy. Instead, it may be conduit to strategizing how to be most effective in the face of the storm.

Check back soon for Part 2 and more lessons on what #HarveyTaughtMe from Dr. Mitchell.



Loving Past Segregation in America’s Churches

Loving Past Segregation in America’s Churches

It’s no secret that Sunday morning is often referred to as the most segregated day of the week, when Christians of all races come together to worship among their ethnic peers. However, do most Christians prefer to fellowship this way, even in the most segregated areas in America?

A few weeks ago, 24/7 Wall Street released a list of the most segregated cities in America. Detroit topped the list, which included locales such as Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis, DC, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Birmingham.

For many churchgoers, segregated congregations in these areas aren’t ideal, but are simply a matter of comfort.

Anisha Howlett, a sales professional who lives in Farmington HiIls (a predominantly white suburb of Detroit), attends The River-New Wine Glory Ministries, a Pentecostal church in Southfield, Michigan. “As of right now, my church is predominantly black; however, our vision is growing and we encourage and welcome people from all walks of life to join our church,” Howlett says.

“We desire having diversity in the church because it reflects the kingdom and culture of heaven. We’ve had speakers from all over the world visit us [from countries] such as India and Italy. We also have a group of Hispanics who began attending our church last year, and we have integrated a sound system for them to listen during services as their interpreter translates to them in Spanish.”

Howlett says that it’s human nature to feel more comfortable around your own race, but notes that it’s not Biblical to confine our religious activity to ethnic groups. She also explains that the Christian church must make an effort to reflect the true body of Christ. She enjoys connecting with people from other races and encourages the greater community to do the same.

“We should want to worship with other Christians who are a different race, Howlett says. “We are spirit beings with a natural body but not bound to our own skin color. To bring heaven on earth, we must begin to integrate races in the church. Worship besides your white friend. Worship besides your black friend. The church won’t be as effective to the world (salt & light) until churches become multi-cultural which resembles the kingdom of God.”

Linda Madison, a media relations strategist in the DMV area prefers multicultural churches that focus on Christian fellowship and true reflection of Christ’s outgoing and boundless love. Her love experiences living on the west and east coasts have allowed her to experience very different communities.

“I live in a predominately African-American community in Prince George’s County, Maryland, yet I work, in a very diverse office,” Madison says. “When I lived in Los Angeles some 20 years ago, I attended Church on the Way, pastored by Jack Hayford who is white and the church was multi-racial.”

Madison is not a fan of racially segregated churches, calling them “not okay.”

“The racial makeup of a church is important to me as long as we are all there for a common goal, which is to serve the Lord,” she says.

Madison believes race shouldn’t matter for Believers who are coming to serve God. “In Jesus’ eyes there were only two factions: Jews and Gentiles. Even so, His charge to us, His people, was to love each other as we love ourselves.”

Ultimately, many Christians follow the example of their leadership when welcoming believers of all races and ethnicities to worship together. However, with today’s influx of digital platforms, it’s easy to find Christians of various races listening to the same sermon on their phone or computers, but sharing a pew makes a more powerful statement of coming together as a Church.

“I think it begins with the Pastors to make sure they’re encouraging diversity in their church,” Howlett suggests. “They must be loving on all walks of life. They must preach against sin such as racism. Preach the unadulterated Word of God — the words of Jesus — and it’ll draw all men to your church.”

Here are a few verses to reflect on concerning unity within the Church:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17: 20-21

 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” I Corinthians 1: 10

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:25-28

 “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” Psalms 86:9 KJV