Decision making paradigm
You need a recipe to help you make decisions. If you do not follow a recipe you cannot expect the results to be repeatable. After years of studying myself and learning how I think, this is the recipe I created:
Know the Rules. Follow the Rules. Read the Signs.
To explain this process, Baseball makes a great analogy. If you have ever watched or played Baseball you may be aware that it is one of the more complex sports to play. It seems pretty simple; one team tries to hit the ball and run around the bases to score a point while the team on the field plays to prevent advancement, but it is so much more than that. Baseball is a true team sport and is designed to give favor to the defense. To score a point is a rare occurrence and therefore highly prized.
When I played in High School, there were several players on our team that were excellent. I was not one of them. I did have one redeeming quality, I was really good at getting on first base. My batting average was horrible but I got hit by a pitch in every game I ever played. I was so good at getting beaned that on one at bat I got hit by a pitch twice. You say, “that is not possible.” welcome to baseball! I was standing at the plate waiting for the delivery, the Pitcher trows a change up (slow pitch) inside (my side of the plate). I knew it was going to hit me but I knew it was a slow pitch. It hit me in the ribs and I started trotting to first base. The Umpire said that I did not try to avoid getting hit and therefore could not take first base. So I went back to home plate and two pitches later took a hit on the elbow earning my trip to First.
The point of that story is to give you an idea of how intricate Baseball, and Life, can be. If you want to win, you have to know how the game is played. Which brings us back to the decision making process. Being a great athlete is always helpful, but to be good at Baseball, you have to…
Know the Rules
Knowing the rules seems like a foregone conclusion. Anyone that wants to play the game should learn the rules.
Here is where we miss the point. If you know the rules, have researched the rules, know their applications and limitations, see how they fit into the overall picture and can discern what rules apply or overrule others in certain situations, you can use those rules to determine what should be done. In other words, knowing the rules is putting in the time to understand. It is taking the complicated and converting it into simplicity so as to be applicable.
In life, this is paramount. You cannot live a full life without knowing the rules.
Knowing the rules takes time, effort, thought, research, pain and a good dose of failure. Sounds like fun, right? Don’t be downhearted, it only sounds bad. In reality, you get your butt kicked all the time, if you are working toward a goal then at least you are getting kicked around for a reason. I say this because I learned a lesson the hard way.
I once worked at a fairly large retailer. I had been there for a year or so and we decided to start a home business. Several of the Employees I worked with were giving me advice. I noticed a trend. Many of them had tried running a business in the past and it had not worked out for them. That made me worry. These people were very intelligent and hard working. If they could not make a business run how could I?
So I did some research. The numbers vary depending on where you get your information but here are the results:
/ 80% of businesses go out of business in the first 5 years.
/ Of the 20% that stay in business past 5 years, 80% of those go out of business by year 10.
/ Most successful Entrepreneurs fail many times before they become successful. Most have tried and failed over a dozen times.
My first reaction to the research was to avoid failure and play it safe. But as I analyzed the research further I realized that the average American has about a dozen jobs in a lifetime. The realization hit me, I had been working at the airport on September 11, 2001. That job and company had gone away, so really there was no such thing as security in the workforce. I finally figured I had better start failing so I could eventually win.
I made a decision based on knowledge, not fear, because I took the time to know the rules.
Because I know you are dying to know. Yes, that business I started failed. Well actually, it broke even. I learned some lessons and kept moving forward.
Want to hear something funny, I just did an estimate for a job this morning. The amount of profit we will make off of that job is more than what I used to get paid for two weeks worth of work at that retailer. It will take less than 2 days to do the job.
You are going to fail. Know the rules and you can start failing in the right direction.
Follow the Rules
Knowing the rules takes time. Following the rules takes character. It is hard work to do what is supposed to be done. Too many times we make the mistake of knowing what to do but not purposing to do it. If you hope it gets done or wish that it would get done or even planning to get it done does not get it done. You have to make certain you prepare, plan and purpose to finish. When I started writing my first book I thought I could have the manuscript completed in about a month. A year and a half later I was still writing it and the funny thing is- the book is less than 80 pages long. I found myself skipping a day and then a week without getting any work done. I had to train myself to work on it a little every day. Learning new things takes time. When I finally finished the book and put it up for sale I gave away and sold 13 copies in the first year. But guess what, I was an Author! Not a very good one, but I had written a book, self published it and sold it. All because I decided I was going to do it and then built a system that made me make it happen.
If we go back to our Baseball analogy, following the rules is merely keeping the rules of the game even when things get crazy. Have you ever heard the term, In a pickle? That is Baseball jargon. A Baserunner gets, “in a pickle” when they are caught between bases. This usually involves what is called a rundown where the Basemen advance toward the Baserunner to tag the Runner out of play or the ball can also be tossed back and forth between the Basemen. Typically, it does not end in the Baserunners favor but every so often a Baserunner gets lucky because the Defense makes a mistake. When the Basemen make a mistake wild things can happen and the play can be very interesting and fun to watch as the Defense falls apart.
The point is, almost every Baseball Coach and well experienced Player can tell you how to handle a Pickle- Keep your wits, slow down, close the runner in and trust your team to back you up- but doing it proves to be harder. Why? because emotions get involved and pressure is applied. Practice is required to hone players skills and train them to keep their calm under pressure. As many Coaches will tell you, “Proper Practice Prevents Poor Performance”
Viola! There you have it. Develop the character to keep your wits and do what you are suppose to do. It works every time. When you do it.
Developing character is a lifelong process that requires time, energy and purpose. The sooner you start developing your own character discipline the faster you can move on in life.
Read the Signs
Oh, this is a hard one to explain because it does work the same in every situation. I have made terrible decisions because I was simply following the rules and failed to pay attention to what was going on. This Read the Signs rule is the one that I spent years researching and was the reason for the development of the whole decision making paradigm. Here is a story to illustrate:
A young man is working for an organization that he believes in. One day he is asked to take on a leadership role in a growing portion of the organization and gladly accepts. Several months into the multimillion dollar project things are going well and progress is being made. The young man finds what he considers to be an error in the system and goes to the finance department to clear it up but the answers he gets do not line up. Later that week there is a board meeting and when the error is brought up the young man is told that he is mistaken, there is no error. He is smart but not smart enough to read the signs, he is still under the impression that it is an error and not an “on purpose.” When he persists and proves that an error exists the Chairman stands up and bangs the desk with his fist. “Where did you get this preposterous information?” The young man explains that he found it while doing his duty. “Get out of this office, you disloyal weasel!” And just like that the young man began to realize that following the rules blindly can get you into a world of trouble.
Yes, he did the right thing by exposing a thief. No, he did not use wisdom and do it properly. He did expose the thief but he also showed everyone involved how ignorant he was and it cost him his leadership role… but he learned from it.
In Baseball, there are Coaches positioned close to First and Third base. They are called the First Base Coach and the Third Base Coach respectively. It is their job to look at the whole field and give instruction to the Baserunners or the Batter. The best way I can explain the Read the Signs Rule is to explain what a Third Base Coach does as a Runner is advancing from Second Base. The Ball has been hit and the Runner leaves Second Base. That Runner cannot see any of what is going on behind their back so they look to the Third Base Coach for guidance. If the ball has been retrieved by the defense and is making its way to the infield the Coach will signal for the Runner to “hold up” by placing the hands in front meaning they should slow down and stop at Third Base. If the ball is being thrown toward Third Base to try to get the Runner out the Coach may give a sign to “Get Down” by throwing the hands toward the ground, which tells the runner to slide because a play is being made at Third. If however, the ball has not been retrieved in time and the Coach thinks the Runner can score the Coach will “Wave the Runner Home” making a large sweeping circle with their arm while pointing toward home plate.
Keep in mind, the Runner hasn’t a clue what is going on. The only information they can process to make a decision is what the Coach is signing.
It is similar to a competitive shooter making a wind hold correction (horizontal compensation for wind deflection) to try and hit a target 1,000 yards away. They know the math of what their projectile and cartridge can do to get an elevation hold (compensation for bullet drop). They often use wind flags to help read the wind, but as the best Shooters will tell you, judging elevation is math, judging the wind is magic.
Both Athletes in these scenarios are using their abilities, following the rules, and attempting to perform at their best but they also realize that having a support system that feeds them information to assist in making their decisions is of the utmost importance.
Put in the time to know the rules.
Put in the work to follow the rules.
Put in a system so you can read the signs.
As we just discussed in the decision making paradigm secret, life is not always clear cut and we often end up having to read signs to make the next move. This leads us to the next secret of life, accepting correction. How to do it, when to do it, from whom should you do it and how you handle correction are all MAJOR facets of reading the signs.
We touched on this topic earlier now we are going to step in for a closer look. To begin with, Correction is hard to accept correctly. You put forth the effort to do something and someone else fusses at you for it. I recently had a discussion with a 16 year old young man about this very subject. He was complaining to me about how he could not please his Dad. The young man was walking out of the house to leave. His Dad went back though the house and found several lights on, the garage door open, clothes knocked off on the floor and the front door was not closed completely. The Father walked the Son back through the house pointing out the things that needed to be corrected so the house could be left in order. The young man was aggravated because the Dad was pressuring him to hurry and get in the vehicle so they could leave. His complaint was, “What am I supposed to do? If I take the time to do everything properly then I cannot get out to the vehicle quickly. I get fussed at either way!”
My response to his complaint was two fold. First, welcome to Earth. This is Life, get used to it.
Secondly, your Dad is trying to teach you how important it is to put order in your life. Lights left on are a needless economic and financial wast. The garage door left open is a safety risk as well as an economic and financial wast. Clothes left knocked off on the floor is just plain irresponsibility showing a lack of understanding about resource allocation. Leaving the front door partially open is a clear sign that you give little thought to anyone or anything else. If you refuse to learn the lessons that your Dad is trying to teach you using these seemingly petty mistakes then one day you will live in a place that you cannot afford to keep and cannot afford to loose while someone else steals everything you own. Your Father is doing his best to protect you from yourself but all you can see is criticism.
If you humble yourself, accept the criticism, learn from your mistakes and accept responsibility by accepting the correction of others then you will “test out” of the lesson life has prepared for you later on.
Life can be likened to grade levels in school. When you go through a test in life you either learn the lesson and move on or you do not. If you do not learn from that lesson then you are destined to repeat the same grade level- taking that class over again. You will either learn from it or not, and the cycle repeats. When someone refuses to learn the easy way life will apply the lesson a harder and more expensive way. Life is too short to make all of your own mistakes, do yourself a favor and learn from the mistakes of others.
Accepting Correction is also hard because we too often see correction as someone telling us they are smarter or better than we are and our pride gets in the way. Do yourself a huge favor and ask your pride if it prefers to take a small hit or a big hit. Someone embarrassing you in front of others may seem like a big hit to your pride but you destroying your life is a much more costly endeavor. Swallow your pride, get over yourself and get on with life. You will thank yourself later.
How to take correction
Simple, Humble yourself and see the big picture. Do you want to be a great ball player, then find a great coach and do what they say. Do you want to do well in a class, find a great Tutor and do what they say. Do you want to be a great musician, find a great Instructor and do what they say. Be coachable. Talent will only take you so far. Not far enough.
When to take correction
One of the hardest signs in life to read is when to do it your way and when not to. Here is a hint. The answer involves principles instead of emotions. Ever heard the story about the young man asking the old man how he got to be so wise? The old man replied, “By using good judgement.” The young man asked how to get good judgment to which the old man answered, “surviving bad judgement.”
Use the decision making paradigm and when you cannot find a rule that applies or a sign to read, choose an option that is not fatal. Fatal mistakes are the hardest to recover from.
From whom should you take correction?
I have written a whole discussion on Authority so I will not belabor that topic here, but here is a snippet for you. Put yourself around good people and under the authority of people you trust. This makes it much easier to take correction because you are not always second guessing them. You are responsible for you. Therefore every decision you make is ultimately yours. Judge wisely the people you allow to influence you and always keep an eye on their motives.
A short story to illustrate:
A bird waits too long to fly south for Winter and during the trip is caught by a storm freezing its feathers. The Bird, unable to fly, crash lands in a barnyard. A cow meanders over the bird and drops a big cow patty covering the poor bird. The bird thinks to itself, “Great, I crashed and now I am getting pooped on.” But after a minute or so the warmth from the cow pie thaws out the feathers and the bird begins to sing and rejoice. A cat hears the singing. It scoops up the bird and cleans it off. The bird is so excited, this day may turn out to be alright after all. The cat then eats the bird.
The morals of this story are many, The Farmer that told it to me says that you should never think that everyone pooping on you hates you or that everyone cleaning you off is your friend, the opposite may be more true than you think. Especially if the one cleaning you off has something to gain. Either way, when you are in the poo- keep your mouth shut!
My humble opinion, after years of doing stupid, Take correction from anyone and everyone and weigh it against your principles. At least if you are wrong you will know your principles or decision making paradigm need adjustment.
How you handle correction
Not trying to be mr smartypants here, but you can handle correction however you want to. The only catch is, how you handle it might set you free or kill you; so I suggest you take a long look at yourself and decide what you want out of life. If you want to be an arrogant pig headed idiot feel free to let your emotions dictate your response and actions. If you want to build a better life for yourself and have other people respect you because you are polishing yourself into a beautiful valuable gemstone then you should probably employ the self discipline we discussed earlier, having purposed to forge yourself into a useful tool by setting priorities to make yourself more competent and bring balance to your life you are now calm and free to accept correction from whomever it is needed. See how that works? Just like magic! These secrets are AWESOME!
Guarding your heart
for out of it are the issues of life.
Think about this for a minute; Education, for the most part, focuses on knowledge and improving the mind. Logic, reason and facts are the driving force behind education, right? Maybe not.
Ask yourself this question, what good does a fact do by itself?
Is this important? Yes, can it change your life, maybe. If you are not taught this fact will your life be doomed? Probably not. Why? Because if you need it you can figure it out.
Our society has rightly placed a high value on education but our education system has been forced to do a job that it can never accomplish- educating the heart. As we touched on earlier, each of us is made up of multiple parts and the mind can certainly be listed among those. But the mind does not do all of our thinking. Our heart carries a certain amount of that responsibility. The mind collects logic facts and information the heart transfers logic to lessons facts into function and information is infused into action. As the old saying goes, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he” because your heart thinks all of the important stuff that makes you who you are, not your head. The tragedy that has befallen the modern education system lies herein, Parents have disregarded teaching their children important life lesson and enforcing education at home. This is mainly because it is terribly hard work and life lessons can only be taught by someone that has learned them which many Parents have not taken the time to do. Plus, the kids go to School to get educated, which allows the Parents to assume the education system will be responsible for all of the education needed. How wrong we are!
I taught High School for a small Private School. The People I worked with and for were great people. I loved the Students and I loved the Parents. This is where I first noticed the problem. The Parents dropped the kids off at school and went on their way to make enough money to pay for the school. At a Parent Teacher conference several of us were standing in a room when I brought up the idea that education begins in the home. After several minutes of escalating intensity several of them agreed that their “child’s” education was not their responsibility, “That is what we pay you for! If educating them is my responsibility then maybe we should just pull them out of this school!” As you can imagine, the Principle and I had a long discussion about how to deal with Parents after that. This is the point where I realized that there is a vast difference between educating the heart and the head. The poor kids were having massive amounts of information poured into their head but no one was teaching their heart- well, besides movies, music, the internet and other 16 year olds, and we wonder why kids have such a hard time adjusting to real life! Their heart is educated about a fantasy world and it takes another 15 years or so after they graduate from High School or College to educate themselves about life.
In honesty, the Parents at that meeting do have somewhat of a valid point, their Child’s education is ultimately not their responsibility. Education is the responsibility of the Individual being educated, not their Parents, Teachers, School District or the Country. Your education is YOUR responsibility. You choose what you learn and whom you learn it from, but if I had a guess, you were already working that out for yourself or you would not be reading this. You are the guardian of your mind and heart. Which brings up the question, what do you choose to let in?
Instead of telling you WHAT to do, I will give you some suggestions on HOW to decide.
First, you need to understand that since this is a decision, then just like all decisions, it will take you somewhere. One way to decide what decision to make is to plan ahead, see where you want to end up then follow the path back to see what decisions you need to make to get to that point. In other words, start at the end and work backwards to where you are. For instance, if or when you have children, keep in mind you are not raising children you are raising adults. What you need to do to raise an adult is FAR DIFFERENT than what you do to raise a child. Do you want your 25 year old to act like a child or an adult?
Second, Find people that have made it to where you want to be and mine them for wisdom. This is hard, mainly because you have to admit that you are ignorant and no one likes to do that. One of the first things you will find is that they think much differently than you. I mean MUCH differently. When you first start talking to them you will be surprised at how much you think you know, then as you start making your choices in life and continue mining you will find that you completely misunderstood what they were saying. So much so, in fact, you will come to realize one of two things. Either they are doing stupid or you are doing stupid. IF you found the right people to question, then you will have to conclude it is you that has done stupid. If you chose the wrong people to question then you are still the one doing stupid. HA! guess what, I have done so many stupid things I cannot even start to count them, so you are much better off than me! Doing stupid and realizing and changing is the best way to keep from actually being stupid.
Thirdly, stop looking to popular culture to educate you. It is counter intuitive. Pop Culture is fun and exciting and new and empty. I am not saying you cannot enjoy it, just that you should not look to it as your Mecca.
I had a very hard time with this transition, so much so that I had to actually make a pact with myself that I would not listen to music or even talk radio for a year- at all. I disconnected my cars sound system, turned off all music on my devices and gave all of my cd’s away. I even stopped watching television Why? Because I noticed that every time I tried to think my mind drifted off. One of the pieces I was reading encouraged focus. It challenged me to attempt to focus and think about 1 subject for 1 minute. I could not do it. No matter how hard I tried, my thoughts were continuously interrupted. I looked further and found a speaker touting that music can be as addictive as a drug, He suggested turning off your music for a week to prove him wrong. I pompously renounced his theory, and in my pride said that I would accept his challenge. Guess who was wrong. Me, again. This challenge, in conjunction with my focus for one minute challenge, gave me the realization that my brain was interrupting my focus with media. Songs, Movies, videos, I even noticed that a good portion of my communication was based on media I had consumed. In other words, the thoughts running through my head and heart were not my own. I was parroting what I had heard. As hard as it was to admit, I could not think because I did not think. This broke my heart. I was a mere product of my environment, literally nothing more than a sponge. Rene Descartes words, “Cogito, ergo sum”, loosely translated, “I think therefore I am”, did not apply to me. This had to change! Hence my self imposed intervention. My 1 year media ban actually turned into several years although I did start watching college football after a couple of years. To this day I usually only listen to educational media and a spattering of talk radio while driving and music is something I do on special date nights at the house with my family. I do not hate music. I do have to say it made me a proud father to watch my pre-teen daughters sing along with the songs Sweet Caroline, Don’t Stop Believin” and Living on a Prayer while we were at a baseball game; maybe I am doing something right. Music certainly has it’s place, but so does original thought. If your life is so inundated with entertainment that you cannot think, then using Rene Descartes statement as a measuring stick, what are you?
Back to guarding your heart. There are other steps that you will want to take in guarding your heart but by the time you master these three you will be well on your way to being able to figure those out for yourself. Remember the old adage, You will become what you are around most of the time, so put yourself around what you want to become.
Before we move on to another section, you need to understand what I have NOT said. I have not said that education or the education system or your school system or your teachers or your parents are bad or inefficient or subpar. You have no idea how much better along we are today because we have invested in a School System to educate the general public. There are seven laws of teaching, The first law is there must be a capable teacher willing to teach, that has been provided. The second law is that there must be a Student willing to learn, this is your choice and where most of us fall short. We want the information but we do not want it to induce us to action, we want the facts but we do not want to transfer that to function, we want the logic without the lesson. When the problem is viewed circumspectly, the blame for lack of education always falls square on the shoulders of the Student because there is truth to be learned and teachers to transfer it, the student simply needs to want it bad enough to find it.
I also did not say that you are stupid. I am saying there is a strong possibility that you either have or will do stupid things. The sooner you realize this is a part of life the sooner you can get along with your life. You will have to change the way you think but that is because that is how you change how you act which is how you change your life. Cause and effect, chain of events, learn the process and apply it to your advantage.
I also did not say listening to music is bad. The music you choose to listen to does define you. Don’t believe me, ask a radio station to define their demographic, the detail of the answer will shock you. Music and other media controls you much more than you can possibly imagine so do your research and choose wisely.
In essence guarding your heart is not like a knight standing at a gate defending a castle, it is more akin to investing a treasure because the treasure is what it does. If it does nothing then it is not a treasure, just like your heart.
You will find what you are looking for
(so be careful what you look for)
Years ago I worked for an armed security team as a school guard and on an executive protection detail. One day there was a bomb threat made on one of the properties and I happened to be the Turn Sergeant on duty (meaning that I was in charge until my boss arrived). We had been trained on how to search for bombs and had done mock searches numerous times but this time as we were sweeping the premises we noticed EVERYTHING that was out of place. When it was all said and done we found about 40 suspicious items and 4 that were possible threats. Fortunately there was no real bomb and no one was hurt. What I found funny afterwards was when we went back over the property, none of the suspicious items seemed to be even remotely suspicious and the 4 items that we considered possible bombs really did not fit the profile. It all seemed kind of silly and all the guards were poking fun for weeks. One day, one of the older guards overheard us making a joke about the situation. He very sternly scolded us for making a joke out of a serious situation. “What happens next time when there really IS a bomb and you overlook it.” He was correct. We needed to keep a sharp eye and treat every threat seriously. Thousands of people depended on us.
What that Guard knew from experience was that if you think there is a bomb you will search for it very carefully; if you think the bomb is a joke you will not be so careful. I share that story to explain this truth; you will find what you are looking for, so be very careful what you look for.
If you look for a job but think there is not a job for you, then guess what you will find; no job for you.
If you are looking for a soulmate but think you are unlucky in love, then you will be unlucky in love.
Because that is REALLY what you are looking for.
If you are looking for the best in people then you will find the good in them.
If you think every cloud has a silver lining then you will find it.
If you think every silver lining has a dark storm cloud, what do you think you will see?
If you think Bigfoot is real you will explore every evidence to support your theory.
If you think no one likes you then you will find evidence that proves your theory everywhere you look.
What I am trying to say is, Good or Bad, YOU are creating a great deal of your own self fulfilling prophecies. So if you do not like what you are seeing, perhaps you should change what you are looking for, because you will find whatever you are really looking for, even if it is not really there.
Wait just a minute. I think you may have missed what was being said because you only took it at face value. Look at it again from a different angle:
The Teacher or Boss that has it out for you. Yeah, at least a portion of that is just a figment of your imagination.
I had a friend in school that was certain the Government was tracking his every move and they were out to get him. One day he asked me why I was not scared of the Government tracking me. “Well, I have no money, no power, and I am not very good looking. I cannot find a Girl to go to the movies with me much less be my Girlfriend. No one invites me over to their house or their parties and I am not even a really good athlete; the calluses on my hands and my scars are about all I have going for me. I do not think I am on anyones radar, much less the Federal Government’s. What do I have that anyone wants?” He smiled at me, “That is why I like you!”
See, even being unimportant can make you important to somebody. It is all in how you look at it.
If you do not like the way it looks then either change it or change how you look at it. You see, being miserable or happy is simply deciding what you want to see.
(the only way to overcome fear is discipline. Discipline creates freedom)
Yes, Discipline is one of the foundations and we already discussed it, or at least part of it. You will find that everything in this project is much, much deeper than is discussed and discipline is exponentially so. Bringing up Discipline again is done for a specific purpose. It is imperative that you grasp this. Discipline dispels fear and creates freedom.
Regardless of when you are reading this or where you live, if you live amongst humans two things will be true:
- Fear is present in society
- Freedom is in danger
This is true because of something I call the human condition. It is people being people. Someone somewhere wants to do something, if that is allowed then things will change. If things change then fear is present and freedom is in danger. If however you are on the other side and you are the someone wanting to do something to change things, then the fear comes from not changing and freedom is therefore in danger. Where then do we turn?
When in doubt, go back to the beginning. Balance is the key.
It is your job, as a member of society, to keep yourself balanced. It is also our job, as a society to realize that the Other Side is not always the opposition. Often those on the Other Side are there to keep us balanced. You will find that all too often your critics will tell you the truth more than your constituents will. Truth, yes Truth.Truth is what the whole thing balances on, it is the post that supports the balance beam, it is the line that keeps us in line, it is the one thing we want and desperately despise all at the same time.
Discipline is the tool that allows us to dispel our fear. We literally train ourselves to perform and do our duty to the point where Discipline overrules the primal urges of fear. Discipline makes fear take a back seat while it drives your life.
Discipline also creates freedom. When you force yourself to follow the rules you will not find oppression from another ruling body. Beyond that, you will find an even greater secret, when you are ruled by self discipline your life’s value increases. There are very few people that can be in charge and run anything well, when you learn how to run yourself you will be creating a set of systems that will allow you to teach others and perhaps, one day, even be asked to help them. Your fear and freedom will be a direct result of your correctly applied discipline.
Be who you are, do what you can to improve what you are.
Ever heard the saying, “play the hand you are dealt,” it is attributed to playing card games. More or less it means that you cannot choose what life deals to you but you can choose what to do with what you have.
This became evident to me at a weight lifting competition in High School. We drove up to Halls, TN for the event. It was the first competition for me that was not school related and it opened my eyes. These people were serious!
One man was in a wheelchair. It seemed odd to me that a wheelchair bound person would be involved in a weightlifting competition. We struck up a conversation and I was surprised at how cordial the guy was. We sat and talked for several minutes. We were in the same division which meant we were competing against each other but he did not seem to mind talking to me or even giving me pointers on how to improve my form. I soon found out why he did not care to help me, I was no competition for him. The guy was a phenomenal lifter. Years later I look back and cannot remember just how much he lifted but his bench press was somewhere between 2 and 3 times his body weight.
After his lift we began another conversation in which he disclosed that he was the one with the advantage and everyone else was handicapped. His legs only weighed a fraction of what ours did so it gave him a huge advantage in the weight class. He was right and he won.
If you have ever read “The Art of War” you will be aware that to be successful you must know your strengths and weaknesses. In a strange twist, reality often reveals that what we see as a strength is often weakness and vice versa. This guy had figured out a way to make something most saw as a weakness into a strength.
Which leads us back to acceptance. So much of our lives are wasted trying to manipulate others into accepting us. What a waste of time! If they do not want to accept you, that is their loss. The real question is have you made yourself acceptable?
In my 20’s I estimated a landscape job for Mr. Everly. He had purchased a run down property behind his house and leveled the dilapidated structure. He wanted to build a retaining wall and extend his back yard to encompass the new property.
After discussing the project and accepting my bid I began the work. One day while I was working he asked if I could help him run to the hardware store to buy some paint. We jumped in his 30 year old beat up brown dodge truck. If I am being honest, the truck was kinda ugly. While we were picking up the paint, the Lady mixing it for us literally swooned over Mr. Everly. I really thought she was going to faint. Mr Everly, which I supposed was in his late 60’s and wearing work clothes, was kind to her and signed an autograph for her. That struck me as odd, why would she want his autograph? When we got back to his house, which was almost 200 years old, I helped him carry in the paint. As I walked through the back door there was a sort of hallway that was lined with what looked like framed pictures of records, as in vinyl music disk records. On the way out, upon further inspection, the frames were not photographs of records they were actual records. Have you ever seen a Golden Record? I have, there were several hung on that wall.
I decided here was more to Mr. Everly than met the eye. When I enquired about the records, Mr. Everly told me that he and his Brother used to play in a band and they had enjoyed a measure of success. In case you do not know already, Mr. Everly was one of the Everly Brothers. They had double digit number 1 hits.
When I asked him why he drove around a beat up old truck and went out dressed in work clothes if he was famous, his answer was, “No one expects somebody famous to step out of a work truck in work clothes.”
Over the next couple of weeks I watched several limousines pull in and out and a couple times Mr. Everly brought some of the Executives out back to talked business and show off his back yard. Evidently he was still very influential in the music industry. Then he would come outside and sit on the back porch with us during lunch time and be a regular guy. He talked and listened and helped us when he could.
Mr. Everly taught me several things, one of the biggest lessons was watching how he handled himself and his station in life. He had accepted who and what he was without being condescending… although he did run a couple of the music industry people out of his house, He always treated me with far more respect than I deserved.
be who you are, do what you can to improve what you are.
Just having a purpose for your life is not going to be enough. You will have to work creating systems where you purpose to do what you choose and purpose not to be distracted from your intended goal.
Pay close attention or you will miss it. You are inundated with distractions. To accomplish your goals you will be required to shun a great deal of distractions while still being able to hold on tightly to what you have chosen as important. See through and past the junk and focus on what is important.
When I was a young boy my Dad started teaching me how to catch a football. I was interested but not determined and therefore not very good at receiving. After enough time, Dad showed me a trick to help. He told me to focus on the nose of the ball. As it was spiraling toward me, if I focused on the nose, where the seams conjoin, it was much easier for me to make the catch. After some practice it was possible to predict changes in the flight path just by watching the nose. At the time I was not yet into numbers, so I cannot even guess as to what percentage of improvement was made, but it was drastic! The difference was focus.
While hunting, Dad made the same analogy. “Pick a spot,” he would say. If you are shooting at a Deer it is possible that a small miss can cause you to miss the entire animal. If you pick a spot on the crease behind that same Deer’s front leg then a small miss still results in harvested meat. He is SO RIGHT! When that animal walks into range and my heart started pounding so hard that it could be felt in my ears (buck fever is a real thing!) Then walking myself through my practiced actions made me focus on what was important. I could hear my Dads admonition, “Find the shooting lane, pick a spot, squeeze the trigger.” Focus makes it work when everything else is going crazy.
To be more clear, focus is being more clear. More clear about what you want. More clear about what you will be more clear about. This is not meant to be redundant. It is emphasizing focus. Once you grasp the concept, your whole life changes. A short story to illustrate:
Coach McCroskey was attempting to teach me how to hit a baseball. He was an excellent Coach, I was far less than a stellar pupil. He pulled me aside and conveyed a story about a Fast Pitch Softball team that utilized what he called a “Dot Drill.”
The Dot Drill consists of drawing colored dots on the ball. When the ball is pitched, the batter must call out the color of the dot before their hit can count.
I thought Coach was joking! That was impossible!
He challenged me to try it. Sure enough, it was impossible.
Until he told me to stop trying to bat, just watch the ball. Would you believe that after some practice I was able to see the colored dot so easily that he started writing numbers on the ball and I could read them!
I was sure seeing a dot on a ball that had been hurled over 60 miles per hour was not physically possible, but focus made it so. I had to ignore the field, the sun, the crowd, the other team, the other coaches, the catcher, the umpires, the schoolwork I had to finish, the cute girl, first base, second base and third base, I actually had to ignore everything except the ball; because at that moment, the ball was the only thing that mattered.
Some years ago I worked for a company in a leadership role. The Executives was developing a plan to grow the organization exponentially and they tapped me to venture out and secure a Real Estate license so the organization could keep their Real Estate dealings in house. Over the next couple of years the plan was implemented and new investments were launched. Unfortunately, the largest employer in the region was shut down, the fallout dealt several serious blows to the local economy and the whole plan came crashing down around our ears. My family lost everything, financially speaking. Our investments went to pot, my job went away, my Real Estate deals fell through and I lost the options I had on several large investment properties. On top of that, one of my best friends and business partners that lost everything as well, could not handle the situation and ended his life, leaving a young family. I was completely devastated; heart and soul. I lost so much more than money. I lost my reputation, my spirit was broken. I allowed myself to grow bitter and blamed everyone especially myself for allowing all of these terrible things to happen. I searched for any job I could find that would help us survive and ended up working several jobs that I absolutely hated just to keep us alive. One particular job, I was the only english speaking person on the jobsite and the other workers thought it would be fun to make the Gringo do all the hard labor for a change. I ended up liking the job and gaining the respect of my peers, but after the first day my Wife asked me how my day went. I looked at her and replied solemnly, “Don’t ever ask me that question again.”
I spent years, working out what had happened and figuring a way to deal with it so we would never be left broken again. 15 years later, as I sit and write this piece, It occurs to me that although I had done some ignorant things that proper planning could have prevented but only experience could know that; and I had no experience at the time. I also now realize it is impossible to secure or insure yourself from life; there are simply too many variables. What I know now takes a completely different view point. The bitterness that pervaded my life for so many years, causing me problems mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, could have been completely avoided if I had only known a few simple truths about finances. These 15 years of research and soul searching have led me to boil down a tremendous amount of information into just a few basic building blocks that makeup the whole world of finance as it pertains to life. Here are the basics:
An obscure, little known portion of Scripture tucked into the back of Proverbs, penned by an author shrouded in mystery or lost in time is, in my opinion, the most important piece of wisdom this side of eternal life.
Agur states in chapter 30 verse 7 and 8:
“Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:”
Here are the truths that spit in the face of modern, and perhaps not so modern, humanity. 1.Remove far from me Vanity and Lies
2. Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me
Remove far from me Vanity and Lies
Stop for just a minute and take a look at yourself.
Where do you live verses where do you want to live and why?
What do you do for a living versus what do you want to do for a living and why?
Where do or did you go to school and why?
Will your education pay for itself and how long will it take?
In your chosen field of work, employment or not, why are you there? Is it sustainable? Where will it take you?
(the big one) What will you have to give up to get what you want?
Compare your answers to this principle and the following short stories:
Vanity is easily defined as empty, worthless or meaningless. Is what you do or what you want empty, worthless or meaningless? Your answer is probably, “of course not!”
A Lie can easily be defined as an untruth or a falsehood presented as a truth. Is what you do or what you want an untruth or a falsehood presented as a truth? Your answer is probably, “Not really.”
Let’s dig deeper, is how you spend your time or money empty, worthless or meaningless or a falsehood presented as a truth? How much time or money do you spend attempting to make other people think you are different than you really are? Do your classmates or fellow workers know you, I mean really know you? Does anyone really know you or do you keep that secret closely guarded and mask it whenever possible?
*Allow me to interject. It is very hard for me to write these articles because it requires me to be brutally honest. If I am hiding the truth in any way it is to protect someone else. Please do me the courtesy of being honest with yourself. Dump the deception and look yourself square in the eye. Own up to who and what you are and then start working to make yourself what you want to be instead of pretending.
Back to the lesson.
Vanity and Lies. Look at your world. How much of it is based on what someone else sold or convinced you that it should be? If you bought or received a diamond engagement ring it is because De beers or someone similar came up with a plan to sell more diamonds. Does that make it wrong? No, But it does not make it right either.
If your goal is or was to go to college, get a degree and then go find a career then someone most likely sold or convinced you of that idea. The real truth is 80% of college graduates are working in a field outside of their education within 10 years after graduation. Did the Guidance Counselor tell you that? Probably not.
Here is a short story that comes from very close to my heart.
Two young men study hard and work their way into a prestigious higher learning institution. They graduate. One lands a job in a financial institution making good money the economy crashes and the financial institution flops leaving him unemployed. He now works selling beverage service to restaurants.
The other young man has a fascinating career field but cannot find a job upon graduation. He works in the food service industry as well. He now makes more money in the food service industry than he would using his education… which cost a little over $100,000.
Both Men are intelligent, hard working, upstanding citizens, both have made a good life in spite of difficulty, Both told me they wasted time and money on an education that has not served them the way they intended. It was not a waste, it taught them character and proved they could persevere in the face of difficulty but now they are saddled with student debt for the next 20+ years. Did someone sell them Vanity and Lies? Yes, to an extent.
I just hung up the phone form talking with Mike, a retiree that I have worked closely with for years. Mike and his family owned a prosperous business and several large investment properties that put them well past Millionaire status. More recently they have been successfully managing several large investments for other investors. Mike admonished me to, “Tell them time is far more important than money. Money comes and goes and you can never seem to get enough to keep everybody else happy. …(*Forget) keeping them happy! Spend your time with the ones that matter when it matters and let the rest of the world be…(Mike has a colorful vocabulary).
On a personal note. My Wife and I have been married just about 20 years. I finally bought her a matching washing machine and dryer and a matching living room suite this year; we paid cash for them and bought them on sale. The funny thing is, she did not want it in our house, She put them in a rental property. Her reasoning, “Our washing machine is almost 20 years old and it is still working so why replace it, and our beat up old furniture is still working.”
To be truthful, in our house, I rebuilt the couch it came from a cabin we were working on. The chair and the love seat came from a friends cabin when they bought a new set and were going to throw these out. Our Television I hauled out of a rental property because it no longer worked and the Owner wanted it gone. I bought a $5 fuse which fixed it and put it in our living room. The rug on the floor, my Wife paid $15 for it when it was on a 90% off close out. When you add it all up, including the lumber and fasteners to put the couch back together, our entire living room suite cost us less than $30 and it is actually pretty nice stuff!
Do not believe all the Vanity and Lies that are being thrown at you. Someone is prospering off of your ignorance!
Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me
When I was a boy, my Dad took me to the local Sporting Goods/ Gun Shop. Mr. Johnny, the Owner, had the most amazing white hair any man has ever grown. I was looking at a pocket knife through the glass and Mr. Johnny walked up to the other side of the counter asking if I wanted to look at the beautiful blend of colored bone and sharpened steel. “No, Mr. Johnny, I don’t want to hold it, that would make me want it even more and I am flat broke.” Both of us kneeling down and peering through opposite sides of the glass, Mr Johnny remarked, “Son, there is no shame in that, being poor aint a sin but is sure is unhandy.” Those words echo through my mind ever so often and I am obliged to agree with him.
I was in college and broke as a joke. One Sunday afternoon I was walking back to meet my ride on a blustery cold Winter day. My ride was late and I had not eaten all day. I checked my pockets and all the money I had came up to just over 75 cents. Walking into a Kentucky Fried Chicken, I purchased and consumed 1 warm, buttery, fluffy biscuit. I vowed I was never going to put myself in that position again. I started managing my money and keeping a watchful eye over what I spent my money on. I am blessed to say, 25 years later, I have not gone without a meal unless it was on purpose.
This is to say, I have been fortunate not to have been trapped in Poverty. The perceived poverty I have endured was due to my own ignorance or lack of self control. I will tell you, that twice during our married life, my Wife and I have made less than $10,000 per year. There has been 5 years that we made less than $20,000. This is remarkable because we were able to survive and not file for bankruptcy during these hard times. God has been good to us.
On the flip side, there have been times when I was able to go to the bank and pull out $25,000 in cash to give to a worthy cause. I know to some, that is a measly sum and I am ok with that. You see, my work does not rule my life. I was recently working on a project miles up in the mountains. My Dad called needing my help. I was able to leave the job and take two hours to help him. No one freaked out on me, no one threatened to fire me. I simply had to make up the lost time later than I had planned. My life is not ruled by Poverty or Riches. I have a certain amount of freedom that makes my life full and rewarding.
Labor not to be rich
Proverbs 23 4&5
Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings and fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
There are several levels presented in this passage. So let us walk through a couple:
Labor not to be rich. So, we should not labor to get rich or we should know that labor will not make us rich? In their own way both are true. If you choose a job simply to make money it will not be enough… ever. No amount of money is worth trading your life for.
When we cross reference this with Solomons reflections in Ecclesiastes it becomes clear what we should be looking for. Ecclesiastes 3:22 tells us:
Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
We see that working for money leaves us feeling hollow and empty. Why should we prostitute our time and expect to be fulfilled? The idea seems really stupid when we see it from that angle.
So what we should do is enjoy the work we do and live within those means. This brings us to the next level presented; if you want to be rich, labor will not bring riches. The way to gain riches is through the process of living inside of your means. This will create riches and present you with the ability to buy and sell which can bring you greater riches
While we are on the subject of riches, we need to stop and understand what riches are and what they are not. Riches are not piles of money or oodles of things. Riches are literally valuables… of all kinds. Many people assess their self worth by some fashion of external collections. They need to live in the right place, drive the right automobile, work the right job, marry the right person, go to the right church, wear the right clothes, shoes, accessories. All of that stuff is fine and dandy, but it is not necessarily valuable. Why? Because it costs more than it is worth and I do not mean overpriced goods! It is literally expending your real valuables to keep these trinkets. Real valuables are not things you can place in a safe deposit box. Real valuables do not detract from life they add to life. For instance, landing a sweet job that sucks all the joy out of your life detracts from life no matter how much money it gives you. Then we devolve to the next step. You start buying things to justify your decision to stay miserable hoping the things will bring you joy. When that does not work you buy more stuff and go deeper into debt hoping more stuff will help. By then, those around you are miserable so you take them on a vacation hoping to buy back some of the lost time. You realize how fast life is passing you by and how much you are missing but now you are so deep in debt the only way you can see to get out is to continue your sweet job that has sucked the life out of you. At this point, you are either too proud, too scared or too lazy to change. Don’t worry, life is just about to bring you a way out. It could be a heart attack, cancer, drug addiction, an economic downturn, a divorce, the death of a loved one, etcetera. A change is coming. Will your foundations be strong enough to weather the storm?
The riches/valuables you should be building are the ones people see during the storm. Righteousness, Intestinal Fortitude, Wisdom, Strong Foundations, Relationships that Matter, Unselfishness, Character and so forth. Proverbs 16:8 says- Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right. Why? Because doing things the right way, growing steady and building character, searching for and building real riches is how you actually gain the right to earn and maintain the valuables that everyone else is trading their life for.
Proverbs 16:16 How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
A pound of gold may be able to buy you out of a problem but an ounce of wisdom would have steered you away from the pitfall.
Life is the most valuable thing any one breathing has. We do not know how much of it we have left and it moves faster the older you get. You could say time is the most valuable thing and you would not be wrong. Your Life is equal to time and the decisions you make. (SO STOP WASTING TIME!) To gain value, you are going to have to lose some battles in your decision making processes. At one point in my life, my biggest fear was failure. It held me back, for years, from doing what I wanted to do. When I was finally able to see the difference between fatal or unacceptable failures and acceptable failures I was finally able to give myself permission to fail. For instance: if I try to write a book and fail, I can continue to learn and try and will eventually be able to at least learn how to be a better writer and if my book never reaches completion, I may have failed but it did not ruin my life. In contrast, if I decide to quit my job and become a writer and never finish a book then I may starve to death. The first is an acceptable failure the second is not. One is trying to make your life better the second is just plain ignorant. To survive you have to strike a balance that allows you to stay afloat. A very wise man once told me that to succeed you simply have to outlast the competition. This is a good measure to judge acceptable and unacceptable failures. You gain value by trying and surviving to try again. This is where real value comes to life as you are improving yourself which makes you and your world a better place. You are building a (pardon my English) “richer” life, making your life more rich and rewarding, learning and growing yourself into a better person.
Picture yourself being handed a ticket to a trip of a lifetime all expenses paid. Maybe you are going to Paris or perhaps on a Safari, regardless of the destination you get to choose who will be your guide. You have as your options someone that has lived in that area their entire life and has a great track record of satisfied customers, or you can choose someone that has never been to the area. I know, this sounds ridiculous to even bring up, but would you really even consider the Novice? I hope not.
Why then, do you choose to take the word of a Novice over someone with experience in your everyday life? Think about it, do you seek out the counsel of someone that has mastered the discipline of discipline or do you hear the Siren song of the Novice? What makes the difference? Diligence. One of them has been diligent in what they do and are therefore much better at it then someone that may be extremely talented. Talent is a good thing. Diligence makes talent excellent.
Here is why this is so important. You will be good at something. What that will be is determined in part by what you decide to spend an exorbitant amount of your time doing. So what do you spend a ludicrous amount of your time doing? Is that valuable? For your sake, I hope it is. When you stop and look at what you are diligent at, is it worth it? If not, you should change either what you are doing or how you are doing it. Life is too precious to waste so please be diligent at making your life worth something.
In the area I grew up in the economy is based off of tourism. It is very cyclical and many businesses will make 80% of their yearly income in 4 months. When we sell a rental cabin to a new client and start managing it for them we do our best to mind the timing and plan upgrades, changes and maintenance work around the tourism timeline. For instance, a client recently purchased a rental cabin and placed it on our nightly rental program in the end of May. The property needs a major overhaul and we plan to put a new roof, paint the interior, install a hot tub, remodel the kitchen and update the decorations. However, when we took control of the property the only updates were an addition of a television in a bedroom, changing the drapes on a sliding door and adding a stand alone video game console. These minor updates were completed in 5 hours in between rentals. The new Owner did not lose any rental income and we saved the major work for a time when rentals are low so the cost of lost rentals will be minimal.
This is a small example of giving timing the nod that it deserves. If I am being completely transparent, this truth eluded me for most of my life to this point. It was my erroneous belief that my plans and actions could work regardless of timing. It took a life altering illness to open my eyes. Through a series of life lessons it became evident that timing is the thread life is woven out of.
How to know who to believe
Understand the difference between intention and purpose
Action required – knowing is not enough
The difference between procrastination and prioritization
Choosing your environment
the people that you are around and the media you intake make you.
The Long Game
It takes decades to be 70 years old. Make long term decisions based on long term outcomes.
Build in margins
4 things that you must do to be successful:
Respect yourself and your obligations
Do the hard stuff
Do not quit
you can change directions but never give up.
It is not enough to make a deadline someone else sets, to be successful you have to set deadlines for your own internal decisions.
How to be productive:
Make a list
Manage each minute
see the possibilities
if the dream is worthy, envision it.
if the vision is worthy, put shoe leather to it.
does it line up with your Mission Statement?
if it does, set measurable goals and reach them.
Make a list
every day work from a prioritized list
Manage each minute
stay on task to accomplish your list which will make you reach your goal which will help you accomplish your mission where you can see your vision and dream realized.
Where you find your value and how much you invest in that value is a direct reflection of what kind of value you have.
In the end our kingdom is contained inside of the bio-mechanical suit we call our body. The kingdoms riches are not connected to or dependent upon the suit or anything we collect that attaches to or interacts with it other than memories made. If our collections go away and our things are removed our value is not diminished only the value of our collections have diminished. We are what we have built and curated inside.
Company you keep