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Connect Your Voice To Your Touch

There are many people from the world of business who have impacted my life. Zig Ziglar is my personal mentor and has provided tremendous influence in my life. Another voice of influence in my life is Max Dupree, author of many books including The Art of Leadership, and former Chairman and CEO of Herman Miller Furniture Company. Max told a moving story of the connection between finding our voice and the actions we must take to touch those who are entrusted to us.

Esther, my wife, and I have a grand-daughter named Zoe, the Greek word for “life.” She was born prematurely and weighed one pound, seven ounces, so small that my wedding ring could slide up her arm to her shoulder. The neonatologist who first examined her told us that she had a 5 to 10 percent chance of living three days. When Esther and I scrubbed up for our first visit and saw Zoe in her isolette in the neonatal intensive care unit, she had two IVs in her navel, one in her foot, a monitor on each side of her chest, and a respirator tube and a feeding tube in her mouth.

To complicate matters, Zoe’s biological father had jumped ship the month before Zoe was born. Realizing this, a wise and caring nurse, named Ruth, gave me my instructions. “For the next several months, at least, you’re the surrogate father. I want you to come to the hospital every day to visit Zoe, and when you come, I would like you to rub her body and her legs and her arms with the tip of your finger. While you’re caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her, because she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch.”

Ruth was doing exactly the right thing on Zoe’s behalf (and, of course, on my behalf as well), and without realizing it she was giving me one of the best possible descriptions of the work of a leader. At the core of becoming a leader is the need always to connect one’s voice to one’s touch.

Max is right on target. The most effective leaders always connect their voice to their touch.

Practical Ways to Connect Your Voice to Your Touch:

  • Become a writer of hand-written notes.
  • Become an observer who recognizes the accomplishments of others.
  • Become a connector of people who need to know one another.
  • Become a person that you wish you had in your own life as an encourager.

Remember the words of Mya Angelou, “People may forget who you are and what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel!”

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May 4, 2010   No Comments

It’s That Time of Year

Tax Day!

A business man on his deathbed called his friend to his side and made one last request of him: “Steve, when I die, I need you to promise me that you will make sure that my body is cremated.” Steve replied, “What would you like for me to do with your ashes after I carry out your request?” He replied, “Just place them in a large envelope and mail them to the Internal Revenue Service and please write in red ink …Now you have everything!”

Sometimes during tax season, we feel like all that we do is pay, pay and pay some more. Yet, we live in a country rich with opportunity and unparalled when it comes to a standard of living. So, perhaps with our groans as we “ink” the check to the IRS, we should stop and offer thanks for a country that affords us freedoms like none other.

Adjusting our attitude concerning taxes is very much like adjusting our attitude concerning life. There are those things we would rather not do, but upon deep reflection we can find a silver lining in the clouds. William James, the father of American psychology once observed, “you can alter your life by altering your attitude.” I have adopted his observation as one of the foundational pillars in my philosophy about life. Our lives are deeply impacted by the attitude that we bring into our experiences each day. I can make the choice to view life as a great adventure or I can see living as an exercise in futility. My viewpoint will determine whether I am a victim or a victor in my situation.

Paying taxes and experiencing death are the two inevitable events of life according to Mark Twain. How you approach both says a great deal about your attitude and the level of faith where you are living your life.

I leave you with this quote from author, Charles Swindoll. “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think, or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…. A church…. A home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will react a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play upon the one ‘string’ we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

Make today a great day!

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April 13, 2010   No Comments

How to Live 100 Years

My father will turn 95 in May and he is going full speed ahead in his life as a farmer and raising cattle. Just this week he bought a new John Deere riding lawnmower with a long-term warranty!

A week ago his cardiologist, Dr. Harvey N. Sacks, had a party for all of his patients over 90. As my dad’s guest, I felt ‘young’ once again with all of the ‘older’ people in the room! This entire event got me thinking about, how you can really live as you get older and move toward 100.

There is an amazing age shift taking place in America today. In particular, the fastest growing subsets in the senior division are those over the age of 85. Think about those folks in this category. They lived through the Great Flu Pandemic, the Great Depression, two (2) World Wars, and Women Gaining the Right to Vote, Prohibition, Civil Rights, Moon Landings and the fall of Communism. They have also lived long enough to have an African American President. Time Magazine reports that by 2050, more than 800,000 people will be hitting their 2nd Century of living. There is a full report that you can read here.

The article made me think: would I want to live to the age of 100? For me: only if my quality of life will match my quantity of life. Just living to be 100 is not a big deal but being 100 and really living is a major deal!

The report in Time Magazine focuses on the following:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Walk regularly
  • Be extroverted, easy-going
  • Stay lean

So I begin my quest for answers to, “ How can you be 100 and really live?”

To Really Live, at 100:

  1. You would know that ‘why’ you want to live must be bigger than ‘how’ you will live.
  2. You must find a way to keep your dreams for the future bigger than your memories of the past.
  3. You would be a life-long learner rather than a long-winded whiner.
  4. You would be a person of generosity and gratitude rather than greedy and griping.
  5. You will view change as a challenge to be conquered rather than a fear to be avoided.
  6. You will see your advanced years as giving you wisdom rather than just aches and pains.
  7. You will remember that your duration is less important than the donation you make.

Andy Rooney observed, “Life is a lot like a roll of toilet paper. The closer to the end you get, the faster it goes!”

You only have one life. It makes sense to love living it!

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March 25, 2010   No Comments

An Irish Blessing in Honor of St. Patrick’s Day

Enjoy the stunning images of Ireland as actress Roma Downey recites a beautiful Irish blessing for you to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick was a visionary who was committed to his Christian faith and helped spread the message in an amazing way. So, keep in mind that Saint Patrick’s Day is more than green beer, running off snakes and marching in parades.

Who was St. Patrick?

Saint Patrick was born in 373 in Roman Britain (Scotland). Patrick believed at a very young age that he was destined to lead. In 389, pirates captured him and took him to live as a slave in Ireland. After having spiritual visions while working in the fields tending sheep, Patrick escaped from his captors in 395 to return to his homeland and reunite with his family.

St. Patrick’s Confessio and Crusade for Christianity

A Christian convert, Patrick underwent devout religious training for 15 years before he became a priest. In his Confession, Patrick reflected on his personal trials and tribulations on his journey to sainthood. As a young man of great faith and conviction, he began having more visions that predicted he would convert multitudes of pagans. In 405, driven by ambition and desire to save souls, Patrick arrived in Ireland and set out on his mission.

Patrick quickly gained the permission of King Loegaire to preach Christianity to the Irish natives who were Druids and pagans. Patrick knew that he must reach out to the people through inspirational sermons and devotional prayers to break the pagan tradition. For years Patrick preached about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ across the countryside and was able to sway many followers who denounced their paganism to join Christian congregations.

Shamrocks and Celtic Crosses – Symbols of St. Patrick’s Day

In Confessio, he wrote, “I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly, I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord – so many thousands of people.” Accordingly, he introduced religious symbols – shamrocks and Celtic crosses – to his Irish brethren. The shamrock, with its three leaves, symbolized the Trinity; while, the Celtic cross, with its superimposed sun, embodied elements of nature which were familiar to the former pagans. These deeds helped to spread the Christian message faster and farther. By 431, Patrick had converted all of Ireland, putting an end to paganism, human sacrifices and slavery.

On March 17, 493 Patrick passed on to his eternal reward, dying at Saul, Ireland and left behind a legacy of valor and service that is remembered to this day. Every year on the anniversary of his death, St. Patrick’s Day, people celebrate his life and times with parties, festivals, and parades. Although this day of remembrance has become secularized, the spiritual nature is always recognized by religious observers who show reverence to the Apostle of Ireland—St. Patrick.

(Source: Historical Biographies at Suite 101)
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March 17, 2010   No Comments

Read This Face

“The face of Abraham Lincoln is the most recognizable in American history – a face that today evokes widespread respect and even reverence.” This quote is taken from a remarkable book that I was given entitled, Lincoln Life-Size. The book is a photographic journey that visually recounts the life of Lincoln from 1846-1865. The images of Lincoln vividly record his distinctive moods and show the increasing lines of stress upon his face. You watch him age through these images and cannot help but notice the increasing pressure that the Civil War brought not only to his soul, but upon his face as well.

Lincoln’s eyes are what most people remember about him. Although he was often described as being homely in appearance, most everyone agreed that his eyes were beautiful – not in color – but in the way that tenderness shined through.

Lincoln knew and even joked about his very ordinary looks. He loved to tell the story of the day he was splitting rails beside his home when a man walked by with a gun and took dead aim at him. When Lincoln asked the man why he was pointing a gun toward him, the man replied that he had promised to shoot the first man that he met who was uglier than himself. Lincoln replied, “Judge for yourself, and if I am uglier than you, then blaze away.” Stories like this endeared Lincoln to those who were alive and heard his message as well as those who hear his message today. During the famed Lincoln/Douglas debate, his opponent, Stephen Douglas accused Lincoln of being ‘two-faced.’ Lincoln immediately won the debate and the crowd by replying; “I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?”

Lincoln often joked about his own face, but deep inside, he believed the face was a window to a person’s soul. He has been widely credited with saying: “After 40, every man is responsible for his own face.” This was Lincoln’s way of saying that life’s experiences and how you handle them will show in the character of your face.

When you look at Lincoln’s face, you can read the story of his life. There are the photos that show his wide range of emotions: compassion, tenderness, tenacity, stubbornness, resoluteness, tiredness, sadness, wisdom and eyes that were seeing things that only God could have revealed to him.

Here’s my challenge to you: Take a long, good look in your mirror and study your face. Every line, every crease, every crow’s foot and every laugh line is a study about your life. Your face and my face can tell our stories far better than words can. Put a smile on your face and let’s go face the day!

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March 9, 2010   No Comments

Life Lessons from Pawn Stars

Okay, I admit it. I am definitely hooked. I love the show, Pawn Stars, on the History Channel.

The Harrison's of Pawn Stars

The concept of this weekly show is based on a family-owned pawnshop. The beauty is watching three generations of the Harrison family surf the free enterprise system with all the pizzazz of a prizefight. Each generation believes that they are right as they appraise merchandise that is either being pawned or sold. Their enmity for each other’s level of judgment is absolutely hilarious! As I’ve watched the show, it has become progressively apparent that the Harrison family/Pawn Stars are teaching me some valuable life lessons.

Lesson One: Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.

Most of the people pawning/selling their item(s) attach a greater value to what they are selling than those who are doing the buying. The seller is typically high on what they want in dollars for their items. The buyers are rarely willing to pay what is first demanded. Emotional attachment is frequently the source of inflated beliefs about the value of what they own. (Seventy-five percent of people fail to make a deal with the pawnshop on this show.)

Lesson Two: What you see is not always what you get.

Many people come in to pawn/sell what they believe is a genuine article, only to find out that it is a replica or an outright fraud. Autographs that appear to be real are often poor fakes that were reproduced on a copy machine. More exotic items may turn out to be replicas designed to fool well-trained eyes.

Lesson Three: The sooner you call in the experts; the sooner you will get to the truth.

The pawn store has a vast array of “experts” who are on-call to give them the truth on items that are about to be pawned/sold. Experts can keep you from making big mistakes, not only in a pawn store, but in other fields as well. Never be afraid to admit what you don’t know, so that you don’t end up with something that you don’t want.

Lesson Four: Be very careful that you do not undervalue that which has true worth.

Some sellers are so pressed for cash that they are willing to sell their items far below a price they could have commanded. Benjamin Franklin was fond of saying that ‘haste makes waste.’

Lesson Five: Tender loving care can transform one person’s trash into another person’s treasure.

Sometimes an item that has great potential value will require some up-front money to put it into tip-top shape. Once restored, the item can produce huge dividends if you are willing to make the investment. When you are willing to the pay the price up front and in advance, great things can happen.

Tune in each Monday at 10pm on the History Channel to check out the action and the lessons that you, too, can learn from the pawn stars.

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February 25, 2010   No Comments

Power of the Pen

Recently, I came across an absolutely fascinating blog called Letters of Note. The site has an amazing array collection of all types of letters, postcards, telegrams and memos which reveal personal details in each piece of correspondence.

My daughter, Abigail Reighard, writing at the Wailing Wall in Israel, 2009

One letter is entitled “A Cunning Suggestion,” and was written by a 10-year-old girl during WWII. The letter was addressed to President Roosevelt. The young writer wanted to suggest changing the drafting of new recruits from a lottery system to an alphabetical system. The fact that her last name started with a “W” goes a long way in explaining why she wanted this new selection process. She, of course, was attempting to help her father who had a very low lottery number by substituting the alphabetical system, which would have increased her father’s chances of avoiding the draft. Interestingly enough her father was not drafted and the copy of her letter is now part of history. Through this blog you get a real heart tug as you look at the childish writing and realize the depth of thought of a little girl attempting to keep her father at home.

Hand-written words on paper have an uncanny affect on us. There is something very personal and gratifying when someone takes the time to send us a hand-written note.

When you flip through a pile of mail, don’t you always open the hand addressed ones first? I know I do. Because it instantly signals my mind that someone has taken time to communicate with me in a most personal way.

Abigail Reighard, my daughter, placing a hand-written note at the Wailing Wall (Israel, 2009)

The pictures above are of my daughter, Abigail, while visiting Israel last year. She is doing what literally millions of people have done in the city of Jerusalem at the Wailing Wall. She is writing her prayers and subsequently touching history as she slips her notes into what I consider one of the most holy sites in the entire world.

So, here is my question . . .

WHO do you need to write?

WHAT do you need to write?

and

WILL you have the courage & wisdom to write that note today?

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February 16, 2010   No Comments

Being Great at Work!

I recently had the privilege of hearing Dr. Tim Irwin speak at an event where I served as the Master of Ceremony/Speaker. Tim has interviewed over 10,000 people in his career as an organizational psychologist and as an international consultant. He made this amazing statement, “I have never interviewed or talked with anyone who did not have, at their core, a desire to be great.” His observation is that everyone is passionate about something and I would concur.

Each day most Americans get up and go to jobs where they have no passion. As a consequence, they will not achieve greatness. On average, they will spend 60-65% of their waking hours toiling at jobs where they have no sense of engagement. Gallup did a study a few years ago where they interviewed 1.7 million workers representing 77,000 companies and/or divisions. They asked the question, “Are you engaged in your job?” The response was startling in the level of honesty and the state of affairs in American business:

  • 55% felt no degree of engagement or sense of passion for their jobs.
  • 16% responded that not only were they not engaged in their jobs, they described themselves as actively disengaged. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, calls these people, OBT – On-Board Terrorists. They work for you but they are attempting to blow up the company by disrupting the culture of the organization.

Add up the two statistics and you get a 71% disconnect rate – meaning that only 29% of workers have any degree of passion for their jobs. It is impossible to have greatness when your passion is at room temperature.

So, how can you be great at your job?

  1. Find the work where your skills and the world’s needs intersect and you will find passion.
  2. If you are in job that you do not like, do your best work anyway and your day will come.
  3. Being great in your work means that you have discovered meaning in the work that you do each day.
  4. Focus on the meaning of your work and you will operate at your highest and best rather than your lowest and least.
  5. Being great at your job happens when you become more concerned about your contributions rather than your rewards.

If you are an employer, remember: People will work harder for meaning than they ever will for money!

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February 4, 2010   No Comments

The First Two Jobs of A Leader

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner and the Indianapolis Colts will be playing the New Orleans Saints. The Super Bowl is familiar territory to the Colts franchise, but it is rarefied air for the Saints of New Orleans. For 41 years the

Saints have been the “Aint’s” but now everyone is asking, “Who Dat” going to beat the Saints. This game is bigger than a football contest. This game – no matter the outcome – is about a city and a state getting back on its feet after being knocked flat by a Hurricane named Katrina. In this game, the Saints represent the hopes and dreams of a region for a better tomorrow.

Source: National Geographic News

Three seasons ago Sean Payton, coach of the Saints, ushered his team into the empty Superdome on a Friday night. (Only 13 months earlier the Superdome was the epicenter and the image of the impact of Katrina.) That Friday night preceded the upcoming Monday Night Football game against the Atlanta Falcons. Coach Payton gathered the team at midfield and replayed the scenes on the JumboTron: The images that television coverage had transported all over the world now played again – rooftop rescues, black swirling waters and widespread devastation. It showed images of the Superdome with its roof pulled back like a giant half-peeled onion.

Source: NOAA

The Superdome became a morgue. Bodies were stored in catering freezers. The images stopped and then the players at midfield talked about how the entire city could be energized by their football team giving the city something to cheer about. They talked about how their loyal fans would fill the seats (now empty) on Monday night. It would be the Saints first game back in the Superdome since December, 2004.

I remember the game well. I started the game as a Falcon’s Fan. Two minutes into the game, Atlanta was stopped on its first offensive series and they had to punt the ball. New Orleans blocked the punt, recovered it for a touchdown. And the cheering began. As a former disc jockey, I know that having ‘dead air’ is an announcer’s nightmare, but for 37 seconds, the announcers did not speak a word. The cheering was a deafening roar. The Saints were back and so was a city.

Source: J Bottoni/AP

New Orleans went on to win that game (23-3-) and it became the new foundation for a better tomorrow. Sean Payton taught us one of the greatest lessons a leader can ever teach: Your first job is to define reality. Your second job is to inspire hope and cast the vision of where you want to go and what you will become in the process.

In closing, I will not say “Go Saints” but I will say, “Way to go New Orleans.” We are all pulling for you!

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January 28, 2010   No Comments

Attitude

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.

William James
US Pragmatist philosopher & psychologist (1842-1910)

Attitude makes the load lighter

William James has often been referred to as the ‘father of American psychology.’ When he distilled his life’s work as a psychologist, he made the observation that we have the power to alter the course of our life by altering our mindset.

Some people would argue that talent is the attribute that is most important for success and fulfillment. My personal belief is that your attitude will trump talent in most every situation.

The word ATTITUDE is about giving 100%. Interestingly, if you assigned a numerical ranking to the alphabet with A being 1, and B equally 2 and so forth, the word attitude (with all the letters having their numerical ranking) adds up to 100!

A great attitude will result in giving 100% effort to whatever you set your heart and mind to accomplish.

Never allow other people, disappointment or circumstances to dictate your attitude. You can be the master of your fate by choosing the right attitude in each situation you face.

In your life, what needs an attitude adjustment today?

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January 21, 2010   No Comments