Wooden Wisdom for the Ages

achievement, Education, leadership, virtue

John Wooden is a paradox in the sports world!  In many ways, more dominant and legendary than Michael Jordan and still he maintained a level of sincerity and humility unlike any coach/athlete I know of.  He stands alone in the record books atop a mountain of wins which culminated with ten National Championships in twelve years.  His list of accomplishments, including being the only man elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, is a mile long.  Yet, in the midst of all the accolades and success he has remained true to himself.  John is first as a teacher of men, a builder of character and the most powerful lesson he offers is example.

Author Steven Jamison described Coach Wooden as “pure of heart, modest, trusting, humble, understated, serene, without pretense or hidden agenda, sincere, straightforward, intelligent, quick, confident, and filled with such a profound decency and tremendous inner strength that it is humbling.”  Jamison wrote books with Wooden and was in absolute awe of the man.  In their book, Wooden, A Life Time of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court, Jamison penned the following poem.

 

True North

Our Ships are tossed

Across the night,

Our Compass cracked,

For Wrong or right.

True North is there,

Or over here?

Confusion rules

Our sea is fear.

Then suddenly a beacon bright

Is shining through

This stormy night.

It’s pure and straight

To his true course.

The coach is seen.

He is True North.

 

In the sea of turmoil we call life, Jamison was deeply affected by this man he came to know.  Wooden always turned away from this kind of direct attention, but Jamison just wrote what he observed and what others felt.  Coach Wooden first desired to teach his players how to live right and second how to play basketball.   So just how did Wooden represent true north for so many?  It came about as a decision to valiantly follow the lifetime creed his father passed on to him on a hand written card at John’s graduation from grade school.

 

On one side of the card was a verse by Henry Van Dyke:

Four things a man must learn to do

If he would make his life more true:

To think without confusion clearly,

To love his fellow-man sincerely,

To act from honest motives purely,

To trust in God and Heaven securely.

 

On the other side it read “Seven Things to Do.”

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Help others.
  3. Make each day your masterpiece.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.

His father’s simple sermon that day was, “Son, try to live up to these things.” John Wooden carried that actual card with him throughout his life and he endeavored to do exactly that.  His life offers evidence that the sermon is true.  Can you imagine a world where politicians, business leaders, coaches and parents followed this model of the man they call, “Coach.”  That’s a world I get excited about!

So allow me to keep the final thought as simple as the original, “try to live up to these things.”

Take a Stand

attitude, character, communism, Constitution, freedom, leadership, Podcast, Success, supreme court, trust, virtue

Podcast # 19   On Taking A Stand

Learn how holding fast to your character leads to greater opportunity in this podcast!

Throughout history there are those who boldly plant themselves in the critics path to defend just principles. The strength of their character preserves freedom and justice for all.  Listen to this inspiring story of one in our modern era who did just that.  He represents the thousands of others who, in pivotal moments, put adulation, power and even popularity aside to protect the principles that set us free.   Enjoy this powerful podcast about James Donovan!

The Virtue of Money and the Value of Today’s Resolutions

achievement, attitude, Blog Entries, money, resolutions, Success, Uncategorized, virtue

Why do we wait for the New Year for “new resolutions,” when in reality most of those goals are just old resolutions resurrected under a different time and title?  Why don’t more of us resolve to fix our work, health and financial habits right now when we are feeling the pain?  In fact, why not resolve today to adjust just one habit that can improve your relationships or increase your sales or grow company profits?  Because just being engaged in the right activity consistently brings rewards.  Let me provide a couple of illustrations.

In a cause I have worked with for years, one of our sales reps I’ll call Bob shared with me an experience he had while cold calling on businesses for support.  During a drop in call, a customer of that business after hearing his introduction walked up to Bob and warmly said, “its good to see you out beating the streets.  I used to be a supporter of your organization before I retired and I want to support you again.”  He then pulled out his checkbook without another word and wrote him a decent sized check.  You see, he wanted to reward effort, diligence and important work.  Now, if Bob hadn’t maintained the daily habit of being out in the field he would have missed that “easy” sale.

For the next example, I turn to the author Ayn Rand.  In her controversial book Atlas Shrugged, she creates a scene which emphasizes the merit of dedicated work.  The scene is set at a party where a wealthy industrialist responds to an intellectual who proclaimed that, “money is the root of all evil:”

 

“…So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is  a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them.          Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by  trade and give value for value.  … Money is made possible only by the men who produce.  Is this what you  consider evil?

“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will  exchange it for the product of the effort of others.  It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to  money.  Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your  wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow.  [Money is],…, a token of honor—your claim upon  the energy of the men who produce.  Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world  around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money…

To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will.  Money rests on the axiom that every man  is the owner of his mind and his effort.  Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except  the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return…”

 

Thomas Jefferson put it this way, “It is not to the moderation and justice of others we are to trust for fair and equal access to market our productions… but our own means of independence, and the firm will to use them.”

So what does all this have to do with resolutions? Well, I believe most resolutions stem from a desire to be happier.  One thing that keeps us from enjoying happiness is a lack of resolve to get engaged in meaningful work and worthwhile goals.  Unfortunately, society has allowed “moochers and looters,” as Ayn Rand puts it,  to manipulate the supply and flow of money to reward special interest as opposed to value added.  The more we allow this the more it affects our ability to produce fairly and enjoy wider happiness. This goes for the welfare recipient who is fully capable of working to the politician who uses his position to get something for nothing.  Happiness won’t be found that way and society certainly has no value added in both cases.  As more people buy into this “something for nothing mentality” economies slow.  Individuals then become fearful and hold on tightly to the few remaining dollars and freedom for all diminishes.

So the next time you decide to skip making your daily sales calls, or stay in bed, or avoid work or that uncomfortable conversation you must have with an associate, or skip breakfast, or burn up your savings, or stop investing, or watch TV instead of reading that book  or listen to the tabloid talk shows instead of personal development audios or stay up late playing video games instead of taking your wife on a date or whatever productive task we drop because idleness is easier, resolve to look squarely at the habits that lead to the results you know down deep that you want and ask, am “I willing to make my resolution now to produce?”  In other words, will you put forth an effort that is worthy of the honest trade of another man’s money.  Because when you do, that willing exchange will not only make you wealthy and free, but your nation as well.  And that can only happen now not on January 1st!

Saving a Wretch, Finding a Friend & the Will to Change the World

achievement, Blog Entries, character, freedom, virtue

John Newton, author of the profound Christian hymn Amazing Grace was indeed a “wretch” in need of saving in the year 1748, but it was physical liberation not spiritual he desired. Not yet 24 years of age, he had already experienced impressment in the navy, flogging and forced servitude after being shanghaied in Africa.  Ironically, after his physical liberation from slavery he turned back to the industry that had once shackled him and wallowed in the abhorrent slave trade eventually captaining several slave ship.  After years of participating in this inhumane business, searing pain and remorse opened John’s calloused heart.  He experienced healing through a miraculous conversion to Christianity and entered the ministry where he would have a profound influence on a young man named William Wilberforce.

Wilberforce experienced a dramatically different upbringing, enjoying the advantage of wealth, education and a charismatic, friendly personality.  In great contrast to Newton’s enslaved state in his mid-twenties, at the same age Wilberforce was enjoying the exhilaration of political success after winning his first term in British Parliament.  Wilberforce was the life of the party in social settings and was inclined towards pleasure seeking.  However, while traveling through Europe with his former schoolmaster, Isaac Milner, a shift from his hedonistic tendencies occurred.  He and Milner light heartedly discussed any topic, but when it came to religion Milner would grow serious and reverent.  William chided his friend for his sobriety, but even his whit and charm could not move him to levity on the subject.  Milner acknowledged that he could not  match his gift for debate and persuasion, but told William that when he wanted to engage in a serious discussion about the subject he would be ready.  These serious discussions came and Wilberforce quickly found himself at a spiritual crossroad.

Upon returning to London, he was perplexed by his emotions.  With out his friend Milner, who had returned to Cambridge, he was left to face them alone.  Understanding he needed a spiritual mentor his mind turned to John Newton, a clergyman he knew as a boy but hadn’t seen in some 15 years.  Newton, who had experienced radical personal change in his conversion to Christianity, stood ready to advise William not just on spiritual matters, but on the direction of his career.  He counseled him to stay in politics rather than turning to ministry so he could use his gifts, position and connections to change the world for good.  William left this meeting in peace knowing that he must discover God’s purpose for him.  As part of this process he consulted his good friend William Pitt who would soon become Prime Minister of England.  Pitt assured him either decision would not change their friendship, but he did urge him to stick with politics.  Wilberforce ultimately concluded, “My walk is a public one…my business is in the world… I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which providence has assigned me.”

And what was the post which providence had assigned?  In his own words he wrote, “God almighty has placed before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (or the moral conduct of society).”  This concise and clear mission statement would drive him through the most daunting opposition for the rest of his life.  To better appreciate the magnitude of this mission, one must realize that he was taking on a centuries old lucrative British industry.  Not only did many powerful people stand to lose greatly, but numerous jobs throughout the British Empire would be lost.  Powerful lobbies therefore stood in his way questioning why Britain should just hand the slave trade over to foreign countries that would perpetuate it anyway.

A man on a mission however does not count the odds, he proceeds with faith, but even Wilberforce with his phenomenal gift for debate and his skill at coalition building could not move this established industry and year after year his bill was rejected. Finally, in 1796 his jubilance at having the votes to end the trade was crushed in the very hour of the vote when he discovered that the critical moderate swing voters he needed had been lured away from the floor by the lobbies with nothing more than free opera tickets.  It failed by just 4 votes. Simple enticements for entertainment had kept the slave trade in operation.

In spite of these set backs and other challenges ranging from severe health problems, bouts with depression and physical exhaustion, Wilberforce pressed on.  He also endured vicious personal attacks which branded him as un-patriotic during the War with Napoleon.  For decades he withstood all this and steadily moved towards his goal with character, tenacity and the support of friends like Pitt, Milner, Newton, his wife and the dedicated members of the Clapham Circle.

Finally, after persevering for 20 years, the momentous day arrived when parliament was poised to pass the bill.  The atmosphere was charged with electricity as Wilberforce stood to deliver a moving speech.  As his final words went silent, thunderous applause erupted throughout the hall.  Sensing it was at last finished he dropped in his seat and wept openly.  As the tears flowed freely the applause grew louder and gave way to an unprecedented three cheers for Wilberforce.  The final vote was 283-16, a decisive victory and an overwhelming show of support.  Wilberforce who had been vilified, ridiculed and  slandered became a national hero because of his unshakable courage, perseverance and character which in the end elevated him above it all!

Today it is nearly impossible for us to perceive the deplorable conditions that accompanied the trafficking of 11 million plus slaves out of Africa or comprehend the conditions that caused millions to perish in the process.  Thankfully we don’t deal with this moral dilemma in the same way today among the governments of the world because inspired men like Wilberforce who surrounded himself with worthy friends chose to fight injustice in his day rather then deferring it to another generation.

Bishop Desmond Tutu said of William Wilberforce, “[He] shows us that one person can make a difference.  Few of us will be in Parliament as Wilberforce was, but all of us are part of community.  Each of us can find ways to serve each other…”  Today, the political landscape appears daunting and people clamor for change but doubt that leadership exists to bring it about.  Whatever concerns the reader may feel about our current condition, remember that legislative bodies have always been slow to act and have been overly preoccupied with intrigue, favor and special interest.  But, before this thought overwhelms you, think of Wilberforce and remember that it only takes one to create positive change in the world.  Are you one who will?

“Mighty Man of Valor” – An Illustration of the Leadership Cycle

leadership, supreme court, virtue

**Warning** this post is controversial, controversial because it draws upon the Bible to illustrate the leadership cycle.  Some readers may applaud the decision to use the Bible, some might be offended and others are unsure what to think because extreme interpretations of Supreme Court Cases in the US and cultural trends throughout the world have all but pushed the Bible completely out of public conversation and public education. The result—generations of people raised to believe that discussions and/or study of the Bible is too religious, too passé, too unsophisticated or too controversial to discuss in public settings.  But I challenge you to look past that and consider what John Adams, 2nd President of the United States, had to say about the Bible, “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Utopia – what a Paradise would this region be! (1)”  Now that bold statement from a highly influential person in history should at least spark curiosity to investigate its contents.  So whether you believe the Bible to be the word or God or not, let’s see if we can at least learn some “Utopian” principles right now from its pages.

Around 1200 B.C., Ancient Israel, a real nation, was cycling in and out of captivity without the rule of a definitive unifying monarch or theocrat. Around this time the Midianites had overrun the land “like grasshoppers” the Bible says and they were consuming everything in their path. In fear, the Israelites headed for the hills and dwelt in caves barely subsisting for seven years. Under these conditions they humbled themselves and cried out to the Lord for relief. They were then reminded that the Lord their God delivered them from the oppression of the Egyptians and gave them a choice land, but that it was their complacency and errant ways that caused them to lose their freedoms. Under these humbling circumstances God called an unlikely hero named Gideon who at the time was actually hiding from the Midianites in order to prepare wheat to feed his family. While thus engaged, a man who turns out to be an angel converses with him calling him “a mighty man of valor” who is to go in “your strength” to save Israel from Bondage. Gideon, lacking self-confidence, immediately responded, “Me? I come from the smallest and weakest tribe in Israel and am the most insignificant person in my family.” He must have thought, “I know God has delivered us in the past, but that was another time and place and under some other leader who was surely better than me (Judges Ch. 6).”

In spite of self doubt, he did take action to complete the Angel’s first request to cut down the alter and sanctuary his people had built up to the false gods of their oppressors and instead make an offering to the God of Israel. This he immediately did, but under the cover of darkness because he feared the backlash of the people who indeed demanded his life for doing so. In short, his boldness in running against the status quo inspired other boldness which not only saved his life but got the people to think differently and rise up and fight for their freedom. Still doubting his ability to lead Israel to victory, Gideon asked God to strengthen his faith through two supernatural requests and God patiently complied.

Gideon, having acted boldly and being bolstered by faith building experiences then is commanded to cut the military force that gathered around him. He invites all who are “fearful” to go home and over two thirds of his 32,000 troops depart. Still the Lord says there are too many and so a selection criterion is given and only 300 men pass this test. Now these 300 alert, courageous and faith-filled men join Gideon in a march to the camp of the Midianite hosts that had gathered for battle. Following meticulous instructions, they execute the plan with exactness ending with a blast of their trumpets and a fearful battle cry of “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Waking to this sound and the sight of torches on all sides, a fearful Midianite camp panics and turns on each other in chaotic retreat. At the sight of this, the rest of Israel joins in the pursuit and destroys their former oppressors, placing Gideon in judgment over Israel to enjoy peace and prosperity for a season.

In studying the way the founders of America looked for knowledge in their readings, including the Bible, I began to see lessons in leadership in this story that I had missed before. Let’s quickly review the story through a leadership lens. First, leadership usually arises in answer to a crisis or challenge. Your own leadership will emerge only when you can solve your own challenges and those of your constituents. Second, a leader will suffer from self- doubt, pointing out their inherent weaknesses just like Gideon did. Third, a vision of who you can be must be established. If you don’t have an angel to declare you “a mighty man [or woman] of valor”, then look to a friend, a mentor, inspiration or your own personal affirmation statements to see your potential more clearly. Fourth, a leader takes bold action even if the crowd is going in a different direction. In this case, Israel was blindly worshiping the idols of their captors. Fifth, when self-doubt inevitably comes, seek inspiration through books, association, scripture, prayer, motivational audios and videos, etc. Sixth, work with the faithful not the fearful and let your combined victories inspire the masses. Seventh, create a plan and execute it with precision as a team and the results will astound you.

Certainly this story in the Bible is fantastic. One who does not believe it to be the word of God may discount it and miss the underlying messages left there for us to discover today. Only you can discover for yourself if the Bible is divinely inspired, but if the verdict is still out or not for you, either way I invite you to take a closer look in order to discover the principles of freedom and leadership that abound therein. The founders of America used the Bible as their principle reference in framing a great nation that unleashed unprecedented freedom—how will you use it and other great books in your fight for wider freedom, prosperity and justice for all?

1. John Adams, Works, Vol. II, pp. 6-7, diary entry for February 22, 1756

Abraham Lincoln, Truth That Rings True Today

character, perseverance, Uncategorized, virtue

New Podcast– Learn what Abraham Lincoln saw back then that we should see today.  When Lincoln won the Republican nomination as their candidate to run for president of the United States, Southern States began threatening to leave the Union.  His deep convictions created the final blow that split the nation. LISTEN to this podcast and hear a voice that echoes as true today as it did then. The subject isn’t slavery today, but it applies to other current issues.  See if you can see a parallel and a threat to liberty today…