Five Uses of Money

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that US household indebtedness has reached a new high.  After years of retrenchment following the 2008 housing collapse it appears that Americans have resumed their love affair with debt.  This new peak in indebtedness is being driven by student loans, car loans, and even the evil credit card.  Credit card debt topped $1 Trillion for the first time since 2008 and will likely reach a new all-time high this year.

What is so bad about debt, you might ask?

The reality is there are only five uses of money, and what you use in one area, cannot be used for other areas that should be a higher priority.  In this way, debt steals people’s financial future.

LIVE:  This is the money you spend on lifestyle

What house will you live in, what car will you drive, where will you live, what will you wear, what will you eat, what will you do for entertainment, where will you go on vacations?  These are some of the things that fall in this category.  For most of us, this is where we would like to see a large portion of our money go so we can have “a good life.”  What credit enables us to do is to get these things on other people’s money, but it comes at a price.

GIVE:  Charities, family, friends often need our help

Can you provide for your children’s college.  Would you like to support kids overseas, or your church?  Do your parents need help from a private duty nurse or paying for assisted living?  These are just some of the areas we might like to help with, but sadly we often cannot find the means to do so.

GUARD:  Health, Life, Auto Insurance, Emergency Fund

Most people who understand financial risk have a large portion of their income going to this area.  The cost of a major health issue or a major car wreck, especially involving others, can bankrupt a middle class household.  Many who do not allocate funds to this area have experienced financial ruin.

GROW:  Investments in self development, entrepreneurial and/or career endeavors and retirement.

This is the area where we expect money to produce a return in the future.  Investing in a college education, trade school, or certifications should produce higher levels of income.  Money spent to get your own business off the ground should help you attain financial independence.  Allocating a percentage of your income to retirement funds can provide for your future in your golden years.  Unfortunately, most Americans do very little for retirement and use debt to fund their educations and business start-ups which result in the anchor of indebtedness weighing down their progress.

OWE: Taxes, Debt Service

There is little we can do about taxes unless you do not produce an average income or better.  Even then you will have gas taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes eating away at your cash flow.  Indebtedness, however is within our control.  we make the choice on whether or not to go into debt.

BALANCE IS THE KEY

I have found it useful to take a look at your monthly spend and see how much of your hard earned money is going to each of these areas.  No one can tell you what percentages should go where, that is totally up to you.  Just remember, what you spend in one, you could spend on another.  Are you happy with what the balance looks like in your uses of money?  If not, you CAN change the equation.

TAKE THE WHEEL

You can eliminate debt to provide more cash flow to retirement funds.  You can buy used cars for cash instead of new cars on leases and free up hundreds of dollars a month to go in your child’s education fund.  You can choose to live in a smaller house to be able to travel more.  You are in control.  Be intentional about the life and future you want to create and start making moves to live your dream.

 

Grandma’s Advice for All of Us- Mothers Day 2017

I once listened to an EntreLeadership podcast  interview with Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, and about 50 other books.  I have always admired Ken’s ability to offer wisdom in a simple, succinct manner.  He told a story that I would like to retell for you (with some embellishment).

There once was a boy who loved his grandmother, but lived far away from her.  They had a very special relationship.  When he would visit, they spent most of their time making and eating home-made cookies, doing crossword puzzles together, watching game shows on the TV, and playing board games.

Grandma’s favorite board game was monopoly.  She taught the boy how to play when he was about seven.  The grandmother was a very sweet and loving woman, but when she played monopoly she turned into Donald Trump!  She was ruthless and she never lost!   One summer, when the boy was 10, Grandma told him if he ever beat her at a game of monopoly, she would give him a great treasure she had acquired from her father.  The boy asked what it was, but she would not tell him.

So he went home with his imagination running wild.  He asked his dad about it.  After all, Grandma was his mom.  His father said he remembered getting the same offer, but he never beat her, so he never got the treasure.  What secret treasure could Grandma be holding on to for generations?  There was only one way to find out!

The boy started playing monopoly at every opportunity.  He played with his parents, friends, and classmates after school.  He downloaded the monopoly app on his phone.  He was so obsessed his parents had to threaten to take away his phone if he did not do his homework and chores first.  Over the next few months he played hundreds of monopoly games, exploring new strategies, reading blogs on the game, and he started winning.  In fact, by Halloween, he rarely lost!

That year Thanksgiving was held at the boy’s house, and Grandma came.  She arrived Wednesday evening and had barely got settled into her room when the boy, monopoly game in hand, appeared and asked her to play.  With a wry smile the Grandma asked, “Are you sure?  I would not want to ruin your Thanksgiving!”  “I’m sure,” the boy answered with a quiet confidence that impressed the grandmother.  “O.K. then.  Let’s get started!” Grandma’s answered.

They set up the game in the dining room.  It was about 7:00.  As the game went on, family members started stopping by the game to watch, and none of them left.  By 10:00, the room held 12 spectators.  Team Grandma, and Team Grandson cheered and jeered as their player went to jail, landed on free parking, acquired a monopoly, mortgaged properties on the brink of ruin, then bounced back!  By midnight, the whole household was spent, and so was Grandma.  All her properties were mortgaged, and as she rolled the dice she saw her next stop was Boardwalk; owned by her grandson, and on it, a bright red hotel!

She conceded the game and congratulated the boy!  She told him it was the first time she had lost a monopoly game since she was ten years old, when she beat her father for the first time.  All the spectators offered their congratulations and condolences and headed for their beds, leaving the two players alone with the game.

The boy perused the board, surveying all his property and his enormous pile of cash.  He could not stop smiling.  The Grandma smiled herself.  She took his hands in hers, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Are you ready for the treasure I promised you?”  “You mean you are going to give it to me right now?” he asked.  “Absolutely!” she said.  ‘I always keep my promises.  Help me put the game away.”

So they put away the game in about 2 minutes.  The houses, hotels, property cards and cash all went back in their rightful places.  “There you have it!” Grandma announced.  “What?” the boy replied.  “Why, your treasure of course,” she answered.  The boy looked at her, uncomprehending.

Again, the Grandma took his hands in hers, looked him in the eye and said, “The treasure I promised you is this bit of wisdom from my father.  At the end of the game, and at the end of your life, it all goes back in the box.  All the things you have acquired will be put back into play for the next players.  All that really matters is who you have loved, and who loves you.”

At first, the boy was disappointed that there was not some secret treasure box filled with gold, but he looked at his grandma, saw the love and tears in her eyes, and gave her a huge hug.  “Thank you so much for loving me!” he said, then he turned to the table and put the lid on the game.

Actions Speak Louder Than Knowledge

The amount of knowledge at our fingertips today is remarkable:

Smart phone

Need Directions, hit google maps.  Do you want to know what that actress played in before?  Pull up IMDB.  Where is that Bible Verse?  Access the Bible App?  How do I program my garage door opener?  You Tube will be there for you.

I heard a quote on a podcast recently that if knowledge were truly power we would all be billionaires and have six-pack abs!  It is so true, isn’t it?  With a “Smart” phone we have all the wisdom of the ages, literally at our fingertips, yet the human condition seems little improved.  Why is that?

I think it boils down to three things we must do to leverage knowledge:

Align:  With so much information available, we have to filter out things that do not add value.  There are certainly things that are available that might not align with things that will improve the human condition.  Gambling sites, child pornography, and terrorist networking sites are a few that come to mind.  Beyond that there are things available that may be fine in small doses, but if they consume our calendar they can take away from family, work, and more productive elements to have a successful existence, Pokemon Go, Candy Crush, Netflix streaming, and gaming sites to name a few.  If we are to succeed, we must make sure we are spending our time accessing things that align with the goals we have.

Access:  Having knowledge available has no value whatsoever if one does not access it!  The other day I was driving around lost.  After about 15 minutes it dawned on me that I should pull over the car, and use google maps.  I will never get that 15 minutes back because I chose to delay accessing the information readily available to me.  Many of us have had the experience of losing years of our life because we chose not to take advantage of knowledge available to us.  The good news is that today is a new day.  If we are still breathing we can choose to access the wisdom earned from the pain and successes of others.

Apply:  With all this knowledge so readily available today, I think we have the danger of falling into the same trap as the ancient Greeks.  We can sit around on our phones and computers, IM’ing, texting, face timing, and blogging about our lives much like the ancient Greeks hung out in the Acropolis debating philosophy while first the Roman Empire, then Christianity, then Islam swept across what was once their empire changing and reshaping their reality over and over again.

Unless we take hold of the available knowledge and wisdom and apply it to our lives nothing will change.  This is true in all aspects of our life; family, careers, health, and spirituality.

On the latter point, we have had scriptures available to us for 6,000 years.  The printing press made it more accessible 600 years ago, and now we can access it on our phones, and even listen to it audibly while we commute.  Have we seen that change our generation?  No, because though it is there for us, many of us neglect it, while others of us let it go in one ear and out the other, never allowing it to pass through our hearts and souls.

What knowledge do you think we need to access and apply to create the kind of world we want for our children and grandchildren?

Winners Plan, Planners Win!

Do you want to win?  You better learn how to plan!  Almost nobody wanders into success.  Success in any arena takes intentionality. A successful life requires intentionality across all dimensions of life.  Zig Ziglar summed these up as the seven spokes in the “Wheel of Life:”

  • Career
  • Social
  • Financial
  • Family
  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

In order to have the type of life we all dream of having we need to plan first to have time to devote to all seven dimensions, and then have a plan in each of these arenas, both short-term, and long-term, if you really expect to achieve results in each area.

Finally, you must realize that a plan is only a plan, subject to change.  A friend of mine who has retired from a distinguished military career including combat command says the army has a saying about this reality:

Fight the Enemy, Not the Plan!

We have to realize that no matter how in-depth and detailed our planning is, that when we go to execute on the plan, things change.  The enemy defies our expectations, unforeseen external forces come into play, we forgot to contemplate a variable altogether…  What do we do at that point?  If you want to win, you cannot run, you cannot wave the white flag…  We have to adjust the plan and press forward to our objective, even if that means a temporary retreat to re-engage under better circumstances.  Just because you made a plan, don’t be married to it!  You did not take a vow to serve the plan “til death do you part.”

With the liberating thought that plans are made to be changed, let me throw out a few challenges for planning across the dimensions of the wheel of life:

  • Career-  How are you doing on executing this year’s plan in your current career role?  Do you know your next step for promotion at your current employer, or advancement by moving on to another?  If you are an entrepreneur, what will take your company to the next level?
  • Social- Who are you planning on having over for dinner in the next month?  What are you doing to create or tie into a network of friends that you can enjoy life with when your kids have flown the coop?
  • Financial- How are you doing at living within your budget this month?  Does every dollar have a name?  Are you telling your money where to go before the month begins, or wondering where it went when the month is through?  What is your number to reach financial independence so you can literally do whatever you want to do for the rest of your life?  How long until you get to that number?
  • Family- Do you have time set aside on your calendar each day to connect with your spouse?  Do you have a weekly date night?  How about a night for a family devotion with the kids?
  • Physical- How many calories can you consume and maintain your weight, or how many do you need to cut to get to where you want to be.  What will you eat today to reach that amount?  How much will you need to exercise if you eat that Krispy Kreme?  Is there time on your calendar set aside for exercise?  Could you maybe combine that with time with your spouse, or time to pursue intellectual pursuits with audible books or podcasts?
  • Mental- What are you doing to expand your knowledge in your specific career track.  Who are you reading or listening to in order to become a better leader, better spouse, better father, better person?  Can you make use of that awful highway commute by tapping into the information superhighway?  Can you listen to podcasts on your commute, your run, or on the elliptical?
  • Spiritual- Do you have time on your calendar each day to pray and meditate?  Could you turn your car into your prayer closet?  Is there a group of like-minded people at your work place who might like to study scripture or a book exploring scripture, together.  What are you doing today to answer the most important question in life?  When you stand before the maker of the universe and he asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”

The biggest part of successful planning is committing to do it.  If you want success in an area of life that you are not winning in today, MAKE A PLAN!

Relationships on the Run lead to Ruin!

I heard the statement above on a podcast recently and, being the 3R’s of Success guy, it really resonated with me.  After all, look at the three R’s… I love it!  Beyond that alliteration, however, it highlighted some issues we all battle in our family life, career life, church life, any aspect of life, really.  It highlights two truths central to whether or not we will enjoy Success:

Truth #1 – Relationships Take Quality Time!

This is a tough pill to swallow in our microwave culture, but the reality is that without investing quality time in your relationships, they will be weak.  Relationships are fragile. When they are new, they must be tenderly nurtured, like an infant. When they are in their prime they must be fought for and courted like a lover.  When they are mature they must be savored for the true gift they are, because we never know how much longer we will have them.

This is true for our relationships with our spouses, or kids, our co-workers, God and those we seek to serve.  Relationships have a life of their own.  When two people have a relationship it is almost as though they have created a unique third entity that only they have the power to make strong, or to kill.  Their choices to pour into it, starve it, kill or maim it have consequences for the relationship, and the loss of these entities can cause grief and sorrow as much as the death of family member.

Truth #2 – Relationships are the MOST Important Things in Life!

If you believe Truth #1 and you want to have joy, peace, success and happiness in life, you have to put time and effort into the relationships that are the most important to you.  Zig Ziglar often said: “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

What is it you want?

Fame?  You cannot be admired without relationships.

Fortune? Without relationships what is fortune?  If you have no one to share the things you have and the amazing experiences wealth can afford, would it bring you joy?  To answer that question, picture a man who has every material luxury money could buy or that one could imagine, but they were all on a deserted continent without another living being…  Would the wealth still have meaning?

Purpose?  We already have our answer to this in the book of Genesis.  Adam had been created by God with a purpose, and he was fulfilling that purpose, tending to the Garden of Eden, and he had fellowship with God, but yet God concluded, “It is not good for man to be alone.” and He created Eve.  Clearly we are designed to have relationships with other humans.

Whatever it is that you define as success will only happen if you invest time and energy into the relationships that matter most to that success.  If you want to succeed in you career, pour into your team, and support the mission of your employer for the good of your customers.  If family is important to you, spend quality time with them, love them well, put their needs above your wants.  If serving your community is important, know that you cannot just go through the motions.  Life is messy, and you will have to get dirty to help others dig out of their problems.

Lastly, know that you cannot do everything.  You are not God!  You are finite and your time is finite, so you will have to prioritize what it is you are meant to do, and put it first on the list.  How do you know what your priorities should be?  My advice would be found in Matthew 6:33.  If that does not ring true for you, I probably am the wrong person for you to ask…

Rip Van Winkle- 2015

Imagine the well-known tale of Rip Van Winkle revisited this New Year.  The protagonist of our story, Rip, having gone on a weekend excursion into the Catskills as part of a team building exercise for the hospital leadership team he had just been promoted into six months earlier from his Radiology Technologist position, decides to take a nap after the team finishes 4 hours on the ropes course.  It is Spring, 1995.

WAKE-UP CALL

He awakens in his well-appointed cabin to find it covered in dust and cobwebs.  He stumbles out of bed and out of the cabin to find the entire property abandoned and in disrepair.  Confused he eventually hikes out to the main road and eventually flags down a car with a very nice young couple and asks for a ride back to the city.

During the course of the ride, Rip cannot help but notice the technology in this car is simply remarkable!  There is a car phone that plays through the radio, and the dashboard looks like something out of a Star Trek, Next Generation episode.  There is a computerized Navigation system displayed on the dashboard that the couple accessed and manipulated by voice commands to input Rips home address.  He expressed his awe at these devices and the couple laughed at him as if he was joking.

As they travelled the wife pulled out an 8 x 11 device that looked like a laptop, but had no keyboard and started watching a TV news program on FOX news.  Rip saw no cords, no antennas, and was so intrigued that he leaned forward from the backseat and started watching and was completely confused as the broadcasters were discussing next steps that President Obama would be pushing for to assure that “Obamacare” would not be undone by the new Republican controlled Congress and Senate!  President who?  Obama what?

Over the course of the next two hours he sat silent and mystified as he continued to watch news story after news story that made sense only by matching it with the date at the bottom of the TV screen.  April 1, 2015.  He did not know how it was possible, but either he was going mad, was currently dreaming and unable to wake himself, or he had slept away 20 years of his life?  He thought about opening discussion with the couple, but thought better of it realizing that people do not react well to having mad men in the backseat of their cars.

You can imagine the rest of the story.  The couple dropped Rip off outside his home in the suburbs of the city, and he found the house and surrounding neighborhood to be 20 years older.  Not surprisingly, his family no longer resided at the location.  He walked a couple of miles to the local library, which was still there.  After an hour or so of coaching from a young, pleasant librarian on how to research using Google, Rip sat mesmerized as he, in 3 short hours, was able to find out almost everything that had happened to his wife, son and daughter over the last 20 years.  He wept as he read of his wife’s fatal car crash 8 years earlier, then again when he found his now 32-year-old daughter’s wedding notice two years later, and his son’s, now 30, licensure as a Medical Doctor in Radiology.

15 MINUTES OF FAME

The next few months were nothing short of fantastic.  Reuniting with his son and daughter, DNA testing, and cellular analysis confirming that Rip was who he said he was, and that his body had somehow escaped aging over the last twenty years.  Speculations ranging from alien abductions, to stasis, to wormhole time travel, to cloning all were debated on CNN and Fox News!  Rip declined the Reality series, Biography and Lifetime movie offers that would have made him a very rich man.

Within a couple of years, Rip’s life settled into a new normal, working again as a Radiology tech.  Digital X-ray was not that difficult to learn, and he really had no interest in 360 slice CT’s, 3T MRI’s, 3D Hybrid OR Angiography Suites that had become the rage in his chosen career field.  People still broke wrists and needed x-rays.  He still had meaningful work.

Over time he was able to establish a relationship with his children, and later grandchildren and that brought him joy to offset the sorrow of the loss of his beloved wife and his former life.  All in all, he considered himself blessed for the strange life he had been appointed to live.

MORAL OF THE STORY

The thought occurred to Rip one day, that many of his peers went through their lives as asleep as he was.  Missing the important time with family as their kids grew up, some losing spouses as well from death or divorce.  At least he had a wake-up call that allowed him to change the rest of his life around what was truly important.

 

THE KEY to Success in Healthcare Leadership

2015 will mark my 30th year in Healthcare Leadership.  I have been fortunate to work for great organizations in growing areas and have been a part of building and growing some great clinical programs.  In the process I have provided well for my family and am positioned to leave a personal and professional legacy for the next generation.  Along the way I have determined that there truly is ONE KEY to my success as a healthcare leader and that is creating and maintaining GREAT Physician Relationships.

I will share some guiding principles for great physician relationships shortly, but first we need to understand what I call:

The 1st Law of Healthcare Administration:  Only Physicians write orders. 

An important corollary to this law is Physician Orders must be carried out.  

The impact of these two principles as a healthcare administrator is this:

Whether one is working on a growth strategy or an efficiency strategy, she will not succeed unless physicians are aligned with the initiative.

Follow these guiding principles and you will succeed with physicians and thereby succeed in healthcare leadership:

First Things First:  It is all about the patient!

If you want to align with physicians this principle will get you there 80% of the time.  Most physicians have this at the core of their being.  If you want alignment, it needs to be at the core of yours.  If it is not, you really should find another line of work.  No one will follow or respect a healthcare leader who is all about the business mission or the academic mission except to the degree it aligns with what is right for the patient.  That is the sweet spot of success in healthcare.  Keep swinging there and you will knock it out of the park!

Find, Fix and Follow-up

This principle was taught to me by some consultants along the way, probably the Studer Group.  If you want to improve your healthcare operations, listen to the physicians.  They are in the middle of the fray.  They know what is broken.  Find the root cause of the problems and Fix them!  Do not let them linger forever.  Remove the barriers to great patient care and let the care givers function at the “top of their licenses.”  By the way, when you do that, Follow-up and let them know you have fixed it.  This is VERY important for your credibility.  I have had the experience of fixing something and 2 years later something similar occurred causing a physician leader to determine it had been broken for two years!  Get credit for the work you and your team do to fix things by circling back and communicating the actions you have taken and confirm the results with the physicians.

Create Win, Win, Wins!

Everyone knows that there is an engrained distrust between physicians and “Administration” in healthcare that has to be overcome.  Too often, I have seen Healthcare Administrators try to succeed by looking at the factions within Medical Staffs and trying to pit one faction versus another and thereby maintain enough of a power edge to stay “in control.”  This strategy can win in the short-term, and is exactly why we have what I call the “3 and out cycle” in healthcare leadership…  A new healthcare CEO comes in and surveys the landscape, determines a strategy, aligns with one side or another of the medical staff to execute on the strategy, succeeds and moves on before the backlash can catch up with her.  In the wake is a disgruntled, untrusting medical staff that is waiting on the next CEO to come in and see what they can do to get their agenda heard this time around.

This win/win leadership is not enough to sustain long-term success in healthcare.  Instead we need to create a win/win/win strategy, embracing all factions by engaging medical staff leadership around “first things first,” the patient.  Work with them to define sustainable strategic initiatives that deliver the best care to patients and support the mission and vision of the healthcare system.  This is not a quick hit strategy.  It takes time because it relies upon creating relationships and trust.  Will everyone embrace the vision?  Probably not, but the few who are not aligned when this is the approach usually marginalize themselves. All the other stakeholders will see them as outliers whose selfish interests outweighed the interests of patients, and their complaints will fall on deaf ears.

Finally, remember Physicians are People Too!  Get to know them.  Care about them as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives and husbands.  They have lives outside of their roles in our healthcare institutions.  Help them have balance in their lives.

 

 

Fathers: What You Do is not Who You Are!

Happy Fathers Day to all of us Dads! This year Father’s Day has fallen on the last day of my summer vacation.  Summer vacation is always a time of introspection and contemplation for me, and this one is no exception.  On this Father’s Day post I wanted to share a belief with Dads that might be either liberating, or devastating depending on where we are in life’s journey and what we have done with our life to date.  That belief is:

What you DO is not who you ARE!

Have you ever been in a new social setting like a block party, church function or cocktail party and been asked something like, “So tell me about yourself.”  When men are asked this open-ended question our response is almost always to launch into information about our careers.   In fact, when we are the ones asking the questions we usually cut right to the chase with “So, what do you do?”  It is as though the sum of our existence can be encompassed in a resume!

That, of course, is not true.  We are so much more than the litany of our professional accomplishments.  So why do we often reduce our existence to this when we describe ourselves?  It is because we mistake our work life for the rest of our being.  We put so much time and effort into our careers that it can become all-consuming, leaving us disconnected from what should really set our course and drive us.  We fail to recognize that what we DO should flow out of who we ARE, not vice-versa.

For me life is really about three things.  Faith, Family, and Fulfillment.  My career is EXTREMELY important to me and I make no apologies for that.  I work long hours and I work hard!  I have done so for 36 years now.  I have chosen a career in Healthcare Administration because it is fulfilling work where I can live out my faith, and provide for my family.  The success I have had in my career has allowed me to change my family tree, assure my children’s higher education, and given me the freedom to spend the rest of my life doing anything I want to do.  My career is only important to me because it allows me to connect with those greater purposes.

There have been points in my career where I have had to sacrifice time with family.  There have been seasons where there were not enough hours in the day or gas in my emotional tank to also serve my church and my community, but those were only short seasons.  If we fathers allow our careers to always dominate our calendars we will fail to connect to the reasons we work in the first place and we will be left with shallow, purposeless lives. We must guard against that, Dads.  Our families, communities, future generations, and even eternity need us to be what we are created to be.  We have to connect what we do with who we are, or better yet, who we want to be!

So, as you look at your life, how much of it can you connect to the greater purposes you have identified for you?  If it is not enough, change your calendar.  You still have time.  Take charge of YOUR time and use it to fulfill YOUR purpose.

For some of us, we may not be sure of our true purpose.  If that is the case we cannot waste another day grinding away trying to win at the game before us.  Instead, we need to connect with the One who made us and find our purpose!  What a sad thing it would be to find ourselves at the top of our game, only to find out we have been playing the wrong game all the while.

Even if that is the case, know that nothing surprises the maker of the universe.  He has a purpose for all of us from this day forward and He wants to reveal that plan to us.  Living out that plan requires us to BE first, then DO.  So, WHO ARE YOU?  Maybe more importantly, WHO WILL YOU BE?

What Are Your Kids Learning From You?

I am living a blessed life.  A result, in part, of learning from my Father.

My Dad taught me a lot of important lessons by example.  He was a hard worker.  He was sent off to military school as a tween, then did a tour in the Marines, followed by cooking and managing in restaurants from the Ozark mountains to Washington D.C.  He often took second jobs in construction to make ends meet, and to pay finance payments on campers and boats, as well as fishing and hunting gear with which he had many bonding opportunities with his only son, me!  We probably went fishing, hunting, and or camping at least 15-20 times a year from age 4-13.

I played 3 years of baseball, 3 years of football, and 2 years of basketball before I was 13 and I can only remember my Dad missing 2 games, though he worked 50-60 hours a week.  In addition we shared a passion for Ohio State and Redskins football.  I remember many Saturdays and Sundays spent in our Volkswagen camper behind whatever restaurant he managed with a little 9 inch TV plugged in to an orange extension cord running out the back door of the restaurant, or listening to the game on a big battery-powered radio at a construction site while I “helped” Dad as he hung dry wall.  My Dad definitely taught me to value time with my kids and to find a way to make it work even when working hard.  He taught me to tell my kids I love them often and back it up with a commitment of time and energy.

Other lessons I learned from my Dad were not from things he did well, but from the things he did poorly.  At the age of 6 my Mom left my Dad and me and moved back home to her family.  My Dad never admitted a moral failure suspected by my Mom, nor did he admit to one when he got divorced from his 3rd wife when I was 15, nor did he see anything wrong with marrying his 4th wife, an 18 year-old, when he was 47.  He had no relationship with his two daughters from his first marriage before he married my mom.  Nor did he stay in touch with his three children from his fourth marriage that imploded.

My Dad put energy and effort into relationships as long as they were good for him.  When they were not, he just walked away and started over, but never learned from the mistakes of his past.  This fact marked me, and I have fought to never let that happen to relationships with the ones I love.

At age 11, after uninsured hospitalizations and surgeries for me (benign tumor) and Dad (double hernia) the mountain of debt he had accumulated fell in on him.  We lost our home and everything else we owned (or should I say owed) in bankruptcy.  I promised myself I would not allow that to happen to me, and have been debt averse and savings minded since.

Part of what contributed to the need to file bankruptcy was my Dad’s continuing devolving career.  When I was four, my Dad was on a very successful  management track with Marriott restaurants.  He left because of a falling out with his boss.  The same reason was given when he left employment of three other independently owned restaurants, and a stint at Ft Belvoir’s Army base cafeteria as well.  I remember at least 6 different restaurants he worked at between age 4 and 13.  My Dad was prideful and could not submit to authority.  I swore I would not make that same mistake and have probably been overly loyal to my employer’s in my career, but it has paid off with continued upward mobility.

I often wonder how some people, like me, learn from other’s failures, while others seem to be destined to repeat the same mistakes, generation after generation?  How can I make sure my sons learn from the good and bad they have seen in me to have a better life?  How can we, as leaders, help our teammates overcome their past so they can be productive, engaged and committed?  Finally, if you are a parent, what are your kids learning from you?  Is it what you intended them to learn from you?

“Home Run” by Kevin Myers and John C. Maxwell

If you have been reading my blog (3rsofsuccess.com) you know that I believe that success is not rocket science.  I believe there are basic principles that, when mastered, lead to success.  Just like “Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic” (3R’s) are the building blocks of success in education, any endeavor in life has fundamentals that, when mastered, will cause one to succeed.

In the new book, Home Run, Kevin Meyers (pastor of 12 Stone Church) and his mentor, John Maxwell, give us a basic game plan for a successful life.  They use 4C’s instead of 3R’s but I can overlook that!  These basic principles can be applied to any and all areas of one’s life: business, relationships, artistic endeavors, sports.  I will give you the basics in today’s blog, but you HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!  To that end, I want to give two fortunate people this book for free.  Comment on this blog and you will go into a random drawing.  I will contact the winners for an address to mail their book.  Simple as that!

Myers and Maxwell (M&M) use a baseball diamond as their illustration of how to be succesful in this life.  The four bases are the principles to be mastered if one wants a “Home Run” Life.  They assert that we all start somewhere, (Home Plate) and are all looking to score.  They maintain that to really do so, we need to run the bases well.  Here is a breakdown of the bases:

Home Plate:  Connect with God:  This gives you purpose and connects you to power that can overcome any adversity life can throw at you.  In a culture that idolizes rebellion, they say we must rather acknowledge the reality that we are completely dependent.  If we do that, we are ready to run the bases.

First Base:  Character:  The Personal base.  This is where we get Self Respect, by winning within.  Only by being a person of character first, are we ready to move into scoring position.

Second Base:  Community:  The People base.  This is where we learn to win with others.  We learn here that it is not all about us!  True success in any arena of life comes through serving others well!

Third Base:  Competence:  The Performance base.  This is where we win results.  We are at the top of our game! We are almost there! We are successful, and people see that and admire us.

Our culture in the US is all about performance.  It drives us so much that we want to short cut or cheat the other bases so we can get to third quicker!  We cheat our dependence on God, our development of character and our service to others in the name of getting ahead…  M&M liken this behavior to a tee ball player who is so excited when he hits the ball that he runs the bases backward!  You may get to third quicker, but you have violated the rules of the game and you will be called OUT!

Home Plate:  When we round the bases we end up at Home again.  This second time at home plate, we have scored.  We have created significance with our life because it has been lived connected to purpose, with integrity, serving others in a way that has had impact.

One other great thing about the baseball analogy is that the game is not over until the lights are turned off.  You have another inning… another at-bat.  You can still score the winning run for your team.  There is always hope until the lights go out…

Believe me, I did not do the book justice with this post!  It is full of wisdom mixed with heartfelt transparent stories and truth.  For your chance to win a copy for free, Leave a Comment or click the follow button and subscribe to this blog!  If you do not win, pick it up om Amazon!  Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Home-Run-Learn-Gods-Leadership/dp/1455577227