Justin Whitmel Earley is a lawyer, author and speaker from Richmond, VA. Most of all, he is a husband to Lauren and a father to his four sons – Whit, Asher, Coulter and Shep. But he also graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in English Literature before spending four years in Shanghai, China, teaching and writing. Justin got his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center and he now runs his own business law practice under the Earley Business Legal. (www.earleybusinesslegal.com)
His book, The Common Rule – Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, was published with InterVarsity Press in 2019. He frequently speaks at businesses, churches and conferences on habits, technology and mental health. (www.thecommonrule.org)
His second book, Habits of the Household – Practicing the Story of God in Everyday Family Rhythms, addresses spiritual formation in ordinary family habits, and was published with Zondervan in 2021. (www.habitsofthehousehold.com)
His third book, Made for People – Why We Drift into Loneliness and How to Fight for a Life of Friendship, explores the arts and habits of friendship and was published with Zondervan in August of 2023..
You can learn more about Justin at www.justinwhitmelearley.com.
When did you start writing?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write. In college I bought my first nice journal and there was no turning back from there. I just kept filling up blank pages. I lived in China for almost five years after college and that’s when I started publishing poetry and articles here and there. But funny enough it was not until after law school and a few years of being a corporate lawyer that I finally got my first book contract. All the best things in life take time.
What inspired you to write your new book?
Everywhere I look I see friendships making or breaking lives. The ones of us who learn to be vulnerable, let people in and walk alongside others do well, even when things are hard. Those of us who stay isolated tend to fall apart, even when things aren’t hard. It’s kinda common sense we need people, but I wanted to write a book that would help make it common practice. So Made for People goes through the arts and habits of friendship to try to give people a map of sorts to live a life oriented towards others.
How would you explain Aro to someone who doesn’t know it?
For me, Aro is that beautiful nudge to be present. Of course, that involves putting my phone away. And of course, that involves a really nice looking box to put it in. But above all, I see Aro as the signal of a lifestyle, of someone who wants to be practicing presence in the moment with family and friends.
What is the family-favorite holiday tradition?
Hmmm. I grew up in a family of six children, so we have a lot to choose from. But our oyster roast and turkey fry which takes up most of Thanksgiving day is probably at the top of the list.
Do you have a moment when you realized your phone was getting in the way of what’s important to you?
In my first year of lawyering, I had a complete mental breakdown that led me to reevaluate my daily habits. Of course, the main thing I found was that I couldn’t turn my mind off because I never turned my phone off. This was years ago now, but it started a long journey of realizing that we become what we pay attention to. I’m still a corporate lawyer, so the phone is one of the greatest work tools I have. But learning to put it away as a keystone habit every day has been crucial to my staying mentally healthy and present with my wife and four boys. Honestly, Aro has taken me from putting away my phone for an hour each day to now multiple hours. It’s the gift of the nudge.