Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Good for ya. Builds Character."

If you're like me, you heard that phrase a lot when you were growing up.  It was usually while you were complaining about some task you'd been assigned to perform for your dad, and after you'd asked a combination of why you had to do it and why you weren't going to get paid for doing it.  He'd answer, "it's good for ya.  Builds character."  And you never really knew what that meant.

In my home, the VERY LAST thing that would happen was a repairman would be called.  When ever something Went Wrong, my dad would look sideways at the situation, appliance, implement, or section of the yard, and consider what he knew, what he had available, and how to go about fixing or replacing whatever it was.  My dad's phrase that let us know that a task was done to his satisfaction was, "that idn't goin' anywhere."

My dad always cautioned me, though, to be careful around garage doors.  Specifically, adjusting the springs.  He said, "they're so powerful, they can through a wrench right through your chest.  Leave those to the pros."  So I did.  Earlier this year, both garage door springs broke, and the pros came out and replaced them.  Prior to that, though, I'd installed the new gear mechanism in the door motor myself.  I'd learned character and self-sufficiency from my dad.  I looked at it sideways, decided I had the tools and ability, purchased the kit, and did it myself.

Last week, I hit the button on the wall, expecting my garage door to open as it always does.  Instead, I heard a *spang* sound, and the suddenly loose end of the drive chain swung down to hit me sort of in the lips and beside my nose. 

I looked at it sideways, decided I had the tools and ability, and went to the hardware store.  I fixed it myself for $1.69 in nuts and washers.

When I was a kid, I really didn't appreciate doing things that weren't fun, no matter how much character I might be building.  It's only later that these things have value.  What I learned from my dad is that I can take care of things myself, that I can come up with solutions to problems and implement those solutions. 

When we say about someone, "there goes a man of character," what we mean is that there is a man who has learned to do things he didn't necessarily want to do.  There is a man who is willing to do things needed to get a job done.  There is a man whose word can be taken as a contract.  I'm learning more each day what it means to become a man of character. 

Where do you learn to become a person of character?  Sometimes, it's from doing crummy chores for no pay.  You also learn by finding someone who has the attributes you want, and learning how that person thinks.  You read the things they suggest, you attend the things they attend, and you pay attention to who they really are. 

I haven't yet become the man I hope to be.  Thanks to mentors in my life, I'm no longer the man I used to be.  And thanks to my dad, I'm still building character.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Operation Advance Winter 2014

Usually, I reserve this space for comments on things I've read. Today, it's about an experience.

If a person invited you to work really hard in order to spend your own money to travel, have lunch, go for a boat ride, and hang out for a couple of hours, would you do it?


What if the person was a self-made millionaire, who founded the company you're helping to build, who is the co-author of the best-selling Launching a Leadership Revolution, who owns an 8-acre estate on the inter-coastal waterway in Port St. Lucie, Florida?

Put it this way: if you loved basketball, would you be excited for a lesson from Michael Jordan?  If you loved driving, how about being coached for an afternoon by Mario Andretti?  Or a football passing clinic with Peyton Manning?  A flight lesson with Chuck Yeager or Bob Hoover?  SCUBA diving with Jacques Cousteau?

Right.  Different story, now, isn't it?  Of course you'd run your guts out, qualify, and get down there.  Because you know that a short lesson from a master instructor is better than a year of learning from a mediocre one.

So, we left Indianapolis around 6pm on Thursday evening.
That's Tasha, Aly, Leah, Me, Kristin, and Pete.  Michael took the picture.  It's a balmy 20 degrees.

We drove until about noon the next day, taking turns.  Early afternoon found us poolside.

I quickly got comfortable, even though I was still wearing jeans (the room wasn't "ready" yet).

Some of us ran to the grocery and got essentials like pizza.  Here is Michael cutting the cheese...pizza. 

Yes, with scissors.  Because you make do with what you are given and you MAKE IT WORK.  We didn't get to go on this trip without coming up with creative ways to solve problems.

How would you expect a multi-millionaire to greet you when you arrive at his home?  Well, we parked on the street, walked past his garage into his backyard pavilion, and he came out the back door.  He let the screen door slam in EXACTLY the same way that got me yelled at by my mom.  You know how it sounds: "screee...SLAMslam".  Like that.  He was wearing flip-flops, shorts, and our logo on a shirt and baseball hat.  He looked like a guy a little bit older than I, coming out his back door to greet his guests.  He looked...normal.  I've seen him on stage lighting up an arena full of people with passion and knowledge.  Now, here he is..."hey!  goodtaseeya!"

It's surreal.

 Michael wanted to get a feel for the place.  In the background, you can see Orrin's 76ft Azimuth Yacht, "Dream Builder."

Orrin's wife, Laurie, took us on a tour around the house.  I didn't take many pics of the place, because I was too busy gawking and imagining what it would be like to have that much space in a kitchen.  I'll just say that the turret at the top is part of Orrin's library/office/space of ultimate awesome.

We headed out toward the yacht for a ride. 
You see Orrin in the middle.  That's Captain Billy on the left, giving a safety briefing. 
Leah follows Michael out to the end of the pier to board.
Michael proclaims that he is "King of the World" as Aly snaps a few shots of people sitting on the foredeck.
Three amazing leading ladies: Kristen Schill, Kristine Militello and my Leah.  We're all wearing Operation Advance Florida '14 shirts.
Looking aft from the transom, with 1500hp wound up.  All that power rumbling feels amazing on the feet!
Looking forward from the transom.  Look at those sheets of water getting thrown out of our way!
Michael and Orrin discussing the finer points of private jet ownership.
I admit that I may never want a motor yacht, but getting a real feel for what is really possible was amazing.  You gotta be here next year.
Michael talking about what this weekend will do for his business.  Super proud of how hard he's running!
I know what you're thinking.  "They don't MAKE a convertible Dodge Challenger."  You're right.  This is customized.  Puts out 500hp, according to my sources.
Laurie's AMG Mercedes.  Leah purred when she saw it.
Orrin, Leah, Me, Laurie.
We held a Sunday service here.  That's our group on the left.

Chris Schill did an excellent job delivering a message.  In flip-flops.  On the beach.
You need to be here next year.

Nice pics, right?  A bit of the fanboi in there, right? Amazing pics of beautiful places, fun toys, and happy people.  Remember why we're here.  We're here because we're running for a dream, and we reached a mile-marker.  This trip represents forward progress toward a dream of freedom.  It clarifies what that dream might look like.  It gives the hands a chance to touch what the head and heart have been straining toward.  It says, "not only is this possible, but you're invited."  I'm not going to describe what was said, or who said it, firstly because I can't do it justice, and secondly because you need to be here next year to hear it yourself.

And so, I say to you, not only is this possible, but you're invited.  You need to be here next year.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

When you're fighting a gorilla, you can't stop fighting until the gorilla gets tired.

You're in it.  You're fighting the gorilla, and if you don't keep fighting, well, bad things are going to happen.  You can't stop to catch your breath because you're tired, or your arms hurt, or Maury Povich is going to reveal who the real father is.  You're in a fight for your life against a gorilla, and if you're going to live, you can't stop fighting until the gorilla is ready to stop fighting.  There is ONLY plan A.  Keep fighting.

During WWII, the highest scoring fighter aces were Germans.  They didn't have the option to go back home.  They flew all day, every day, defending their homes.  They couldn't stop fighting, because to stop fighting meant certain death.  To continue fighting might mean death, but it might also mean a chance for life, both for self and for countrymen.  Flying was a sacred trust to serve and protect those others.  The commitment was for a level greater than self.  It's a level of desperation that many people aren't familiar with in our day and age, especially in a country of privilege such as the United States. 

Where does that fit in with business and leadership?  Right smack in the middle, that's where.  As business owners and leaders, those who follow us need to know that we are going to tangle with that gorilla for as long as it takes to get the job done and not a minute less.  People need to know that we will stand up and do the hard things, the undesirable tasks, the excruciating minutia of planning and executing.  They need to know that we are not only willing, but able and more than up to the task of surmounting the insurmountable.  We will keep fighting, because people are counting on us.  The job is more than just for us, now.

When my dad took the training wheels off my bike, I felt a sense of freedom for about twenty-five feet.  Then I felt a sense of scraping and burning as I slid on my elbows and knees across the asphalt of our driveway.  My little brother was watching, though, so I got back up and kept on riding.  It was pride, at first.  Later, I was a bit jealous of how quickly he was able to transition to no training wheels.  I found out that he'd been watching closely what I did that was contrary to the coaching of our dad, and he incorporated that into his success.  Lance Armstrong once had training wheels, you know.  Before Usain Bolt became the fastest man alive, he had to learn to walk.  We all start somewhere, but at some point, our desire to become more than what we are transforms.  It goes from "hey, I'd like to be able to do that" to "this is a thing which I must, under all conditions, accomplish."  German pilots kept flying because they had no other option.  Lance Armstrong's desire to be the best drove him to train longer and harder.  (His desire to win at ANY price cost him his self respect and stripped him of the honor he'd won, but that's a topic covered on the diagonal here, at Marc Militello's blog.) Same with Usain.  With us, it is no different.  Have you reached a place where there is no plan B? where you can't stop doing until it is done?

I was reading Launching a Leadership Revolution by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady, in which they mention a line of scripture.  It also happened that my pastor mentioned this same passage this morning.  It is as follows:

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Whatever the gorilla you're fighting looks like, you have to focus on those things which will give you victory.  Anything else MUST wait for later.  You can't quit fighting until the gorilla gets tired.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Forgiveness and Moving Forward

I've been reading Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S.  Chapter 10 deals with  forgiveness.  Specifically, unloading the things which are keeping you from going where you want to go.

An aircraft has a weight limit.  It's a number which, when exceeded, makes it impossible for the aircraft to become airborne.  In order to take to the air, baggage will need to be removed to lighten the weight of the cargo.  Under a full load, the aircraft climbs at one rate.  With no cargo at all, it climbs much more quickly.  It is the purpose of aircraft to be in the air, because there they are able to achieve their purpose of moving forward at a greater rate of speed, seeing farther, and reaching new heights.

Carrying emotional baggage is much the same.  Too much of it holds you in place.  Remembered failures lead to a fear of trying rather than an adjustment in procedure for the next attempt.  A past soured relationship causes emotional distress in new ones.  Grasping too firmly at our past leaves us unable to plant our feet in today and reach for tomorrow.  A favorite trite saying: "The past is history, the future is mystery, and today is the gift we call the present." 

So, the way to move forward needs a sense of closure for the past.  Going over an event again and again is resentment, meaning "to feel again."  Here prayer becomes crucial.  We ask god to forgive the person or event, and we ask to be delivered from it.  We seek help when we need it, in order to be done with this thing and move forward.  Nobody promises easy, but the results will astound you.

An airplane is designed to carry cargo, you may be thinking, quite correctly.  Proper placement of the cargo balances out the aircraft, and careful adherence to the limitations of performance capabilities allows that airplane to carry some cargo and move upward and onward.  The lighter the load, the quicker and ascent, and the further the distance traveled. 

Pray.  Ask forgiveness for yourself.  Forgive others.  Give grace where grace was given, and give grace to those who don't deserve it.  Pour out more of yourself than others pour in, and you will find that god will continue to fill you if you ask. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Leadership Education: what difference does it make?

I'm fresh back from my 25th high school reunion.  I attended Culver Military Academy from the fall of 1984 until graduation in the spring of 1988.  For four years, I was part of a school that had a required Leadership Development class.  I learned about decision making, I learned about taking care of those under my direction, and I learned about giving and taking direction for and from others.

One classmate is being considered for promotion to full Colonel in the US Army.  Another wasn't able to attend because he was standing watch with the USCG this weekend.  I have classmates working in Washington, D.C., as congressional aides, classmates who are college professors, classmates who are successful attorneys.  We have classmates working as neuro-oncologists, and dance teachers, and everything in between.

We talked a bit about what our Culver experience did for us.  We found that, as a result of being schooled in leadership and self-discipline principals early, we were much better prepared for college than a great many others of our age.  We knew how to manage time, how to prioritize projects, and how to interact with professors.

I find myself these days wanting to learn more about leadership. It isn't that I've forgotten, although there is 25 years worth of cobwebs spun since I was a cadet.  It's that I'd gotten out of the habit of personal renewal.  I'd stopped learning anything new, and had become stagnant.

Why change now?  Well, I fell in with some people who are working in Leadership Development, and they've been forming a community of like-minded people.  People who want to make a difference in themselves, and ultimately in others.  What intrigued me so much?  I used to be one of those people.  I used to want to make a difference in myself, and ultimately in others.  It's why I became a teacher, right?  Then life happens and we start to numb our passions in order to meet our obligations.  We listen to our own excuses and stifle our own dreams.  We wake up, and a 25-year overnight has happened and we have no idea how we got to where we are, because it isn't where we wanted to be.  We became the water, rather than the wind, and went where we were supposed to go rather than where we wanted.

How do you make a difference in yourself and ultimately in others if you've paved over the meadow of your soul in order to build a parking lot of mediocrity?  It isn't easy, and it's  easier than you can imagine.  It's information.  What information did I have coming out of the Academy?  I knew how and when to act, and I knew how to think.

Now?  LIFE happens!  Those people I "fell in with" have reminded me of who I was, what was important to me, and most importantly, inspired me to renew my passion for making a difference in the lives of others.  Those old passions are tingly as they wake up from being underneath everything.  The more I engage in leadership information, the more convinced I am that I AM the change the world needs.  All it takes is information.  I'm not in school anymore, so I have learned to apply a system to my self-study, and I have learned to ask for help from those who have the results I'm looking for.  The future is no longer a gray, uncertain area.  It's clear where I want to go, and I have directions to guide me there.  The only variable is time.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Servant Leadership at age 14

Servant Leadership.  It's a big buzzword to throw around in meetings these days, but it seems that sometimes the words never make the transition from sound waves in the air to concepts in one's heart.  As with a lot of ideas, we get lip service, but no service.

What does it mean, "to serve?"  The little dictionary app on my fruit-based smart phone has several definitions, varying from things like tennis and military appointments, to working in inside retail, to being an assistant at a religious ceremony.  Let's use the following, though: to be of use; to be worthy of reliance or trust; to furnish or supply with something needed or desired; to provide services that benefit or help.  

I have a niece and nephew by marriage; twins, age five.  I have a stepson, age fourteen.  I'm talking about servant leadership at age fourteen, and I'm talking about being a tiger, and not just any tiger.  He-Man's tiger, Battle Cat.  If you're not familiar, Battle Cat is green, with yellow (or orange) stripes, wears red armor, is fearless in confrontation, talks, and serves as a war steed for He-Man.  Got all that?

Let's talk about fourteen-year-old boys for a moment.  In the case of the one that I know, he prefers to involve himself with handheld electronic games and books, and creating role-playing adventure game scenarios to play with his friends.  Five-year-old cousins who think he hung the moon, however, aren't much for allowing a fourteen-year-old space, especially when the three of them are visiting "Grumurmer's house" on a Saturday evening.

Sometimes, they play board games.  Sometimes, they play "Monster" which involves the older cousin lurching and groaning while slowly moving toward screeching and giggling pre-schoolers.  This time, they played "He-Man and She-Ra."  It was a new game.  It was introduced like this: "We're playing He-Man and She-Ra, and you're going to be the tiger!"

I know, because I picked the stepson up after the event, that he was not particularly excited about being ridden around a condo as a feline steed of war while a five-year-old boy bounced on his back and yelled "By The Power Of Grayskull...I HAVE THE POWER!"  You know what he did, though?  He actively participated and was of use, supplied something needed, provided services that gave benefit, and was worthy of trust to do those things.

Is this a big deal?  It is no big deal, and it is the biggest deal.  As leaders, sometimes we must support our people at the level of their needs.  This might mean modeling a task and assisting until the person learns well enough to complete it alone.  This might mean being the one who sweeps the meeting hall, locks the doors, and turns out the lights after arriving early to set it up, administer the meeting, answer questions, shake hands, and reassure clients.  It might mean becoming a talking green tiger.  It might not be exactly what you'd wanted to do, but you do it because by serving those people, you make their lives better, and that is good in personal life as well as business.

What is the value behind this story?  Some of it is happy twins enjoying a Saturday night with a favorite cousin who pays attention to them and plays with them.  Some of it is a teenager learning to do something which benefits someone else more than himself.  Mostly, though, it is that serving others in order to make their situation better provides a benefit to ourselves which we can't gain in any other way.  It is a blessing to be a blessing.  At the end of the day, I'm proud of my stepson for transforming himself into a yellow-striped green tiger and having shrieking little people ride him around for an evening.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Be strong and very courageous.

That's Joshua 1:7. 

Joshua 1:7-8
"Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful."

I'm drawn to this, because there is no mention of smiting or crushing.  No threats of what will happen if you don't obey all the law.  There is just the promise that, if you obey the law, "you may be successful wherever you go."  "Then you will be prosperous and successful."  Isn't that interesting?

What's that mean, really?  I'm not entirely sure, but I think I'm grasping that working toward a life based on spiritual principles will enable me to prosper and have success.  How fortunate that someone has already put these principles down in writing, that I only have to ask for them and they are available.

How does this strike you?  What experience do you have with this?  I'm learning, and would very much appreciate your thoughts.