Lessons from Coach Wooden

This past weekend I watched both men and women’s Final Four basketball games. The games were exciting and a few of the outcomes came down to the wire.  I always make it a point to listen to the losing and winning coaches after the game to hear and learn from their perspective. What I heard this weekend was a bunch of class acts giving credit to their players, coaches and fans.  It was refreshing, especially hearing Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma share his thoughts after his 111 winning game streak came to end.  He was a class act and it reminded me of the great legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Today, I thought I would share a few of my personal observations on coach John Wooden after having the honor to have dinner with him twice.  I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to him.  I was so excited to meet him, especially since I had read many of his books and all about his pyramid of success.  What was remarkable about this true icon, was that he made me feel special.  He looked me straight in the eyes, shook my hand, called me by name and began to ask me questions about my life.  Then, I watched him interact with others in the room and he was consistent.  What did I observe that day?  Here are two quick but BIG lessons on leadership I learned from Coach Wooden.

Lesson #1 for Leaders: Coach Wooden displayed sincerity and humility.  It was obvious Coach Wooden was not about himself, but about others in the room.  I have heard from others this was the way he handled his team and his life.  The very best leaders are confident but display humility and sincerity.  Most don’t understand the power of humility but it is one of the greatest traits of an effective leader.

Lesson#2 for Leaders:  Coach Wooden was authentic.  From the moment we met he was just himself.  To be a great leader it’s important to be transparent and present your true self to others.  We are all going to be found out (whether you are a phony or authentic).  Like John Wooden, leaders should be themselves. Great leaders learn to serve others because they know who they are, why they are here and where they are going.

One of my biggest takeaways from my conversation with coach was when I asked him about the best advice he ever received, he immediate reference his father and recited the seven-point creed for life he said he got from him.  They just flowed out of his heart and lips so smoothly.  I share them with you in hopes that it inspires and reminds you what is important.

The points:

Be true to yourself.

Make each day your masterpiece.

 Help others.

 Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.

 Make friendship a fine art.

 Build a shelter against a rainy day.

 Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

A Leadership Lesson and Reminder

Some of you are aware that earlier this year I launched Business Report’s Executive Leadership Academy.  The program already has become a sought-after, energizing and career-enhancing program.  Offered twice yearly, in the spring and fall, the program is presented in six sessions on Fridays.  Class size is limited to ensure a personalized experience.  This exclusive program for advancing professionals and entrepreneurs offers the best of personal development, professional growth, leadership exposure and insight from guest CEO speakers.

For most sessions, I host a one-hour segment titled a “Conversation with ________”.   You can plug in the CEO name where in a fireside chat style, I ask intimate questions to them and they candidly share their philosophy, tactics, routines and perspectives in running their organization and life.

This past week I had the honor of interviewing Todd Graves, the owner and founder of Raising Canes Restaurants.  They have over 300 restaurants in the U.S., Kuwait and Bahrain with annual revenues exceeding $700 million.  I was so impressed with his love and passion for his people, his obsession for their culture and how hard he still works daily.  He talked about how he and his management team understand the importance of setting the example, working hard and taking care of their people. His official title on his business card reads “Founder, Chairman, CEO, Fry Cook and Cashier”.  I love it!

One question I asked him was, “if there was a quote that you work by or one that stands out for you?”  He said, “Nothing ever happens unless Someone pursues a vision Fanatically.”   I had to let that thought marinate in my brain.

The word Fanatically stood out to me.  Think about that for a moment.  The definition of it is the following:

 Fanatically – adjective.  motivated or characterized by an extreme, uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, Also, fanatic.

There is no doubt that only when you have PASSION/ZEAL/ENTHUSIASM for what you do, will you have sustainable success and impact.

Today, I want to remind you that being a fanatic or enthusiastic about your work, family and life is what makes us all feel alive!  People with this type of zeal will constantly make sacrifices to reach their goals. When things get tough it’s their enthusiasm that helps them keep going. Here are just four simple reasons enthusiasm is a difference maker:

  • It makes life a lot more fun.  Feeling unenthusiastic, bored and apathetic isn’t pleasurable or fun.  It makes life dreadful.  Enthusiasm on the other hand is like an inner sun that makes life easier, shinier and more enjoyable. It’s energizing and fuels your tank.
  • It’s contagious.  Enthusiasm is probably one of the most attractive qualities a person can have.  It’s a quality that makes you attractive in all kinds of relationships – personal or professional – and it’s a wonderful quality to find in other people.  It tends to make all kinds of interactions and relationships a whole lot more fun and with enthusiasm you can fulfil more of the potential of any situation or experience.
  • It’s a powerful asset in communicating with others.  If you are enthusiastic, it not only makes you more attractive, it also makes your words and message so much more powerful since when you are feeling enthusiastic then that feeling comes through in your body language and voice tonality. And those two parts make up over 90 percent of communication.
  • It gets things done.  With enthusiasm things get done and goals are reached.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”  He was right.  TIME FOR ACTION!

Lessons from Mom

Every month I get requests to speak at conferences, company meetings and conventions. Usually, I get hired to speak on Leadership, Motivation, Selling or Success. However, last week I had the honor to speak at a Luncheon for The Singles Mom Ministry. They had discovered that I had been raised by a single mother. They wanted me to share the journey we had together. My father left us when I was four years old and my mother with broken English went to work and busted her tail to get me ready for life. She passed away two years ago and I miss her every day. As I was preparing my remarks I started to rewind the tape of the most influential person in my life. The lessons she taught me and the love she gave me that have forever impacted my life. I have to confess that I got emotional while remembering my mother and the HERO she was to me. She was a special lady who sacrificed for her family, never gave up against the odds and left a legacy that will live for a long time.

These next two weeks I want to share with you a few lessons I learned from my Single Mom. I believe the life of a Single mother is the hardest job on the planet. If you are a single mother keep plugging away, be tenacious and keep loving your kids. I promise you they’ll see your example and it will all turn out all right.

  1. Believe you Can– My mother never allowed “can’t” to come out of my mouth and when it would she would correct me.  My mother told me over and over again, “you’re smart, you CAN DO IT”.  She affirmed us and helped us believe in ourselves.  Lesson to remember:  Successful people believe they can do it – Believing is the first step in achieving.
  2. Don’t whine or complain about things– It’s funny but my mother didn’t learn how to drive till almost 37 years old, learned how to speak English by watching the Johnny Carson show and supported us on $13,000 annual salary for years.  Life was not easy but I can’t ever remember her complaining or whining about her lot in life.  That spoke volumes to me.  Lesson to remember:  you don’t become successful at anything in life by whining or complaining.  In life, you will encounter adversity, you just have to make up your mind you will overcome!
  3. Sacrifice for others– When I reflect back I realize how much we didn’t have, yet my mother always found a way to provide for everything we needed and sometimes what we wanted.  My mother never took a vacation until we were older because she used her vacation days to take care of us when we were sick.  She wore the same old clothes for a long time so that we would have new clothes every new school year.  Lesson to remember: In order to be successful you can’t just live for yourself – you must learn to sacrifice for others.
  4. Work Hard at everything you do– My mother was a hard worker and that spoke volumes to me.  They say “more is caught than taught” and I believe it.  The truth as parents is that we teach what we know but we reproduce who we are.  Her example of a strong worth ethic is in my DNA.  Lesson to remember: Successful people work hard at everything and never cut corners.

The more I think about it the more I realize that our moms not only give us the precious gift of life, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us. Next week, I share a few more lessons from my mother and one I believe to be the most valuable one of all.


We all know the importance of nutrition.  Good food and good calories make you stronger, healthier and give you more energy.  Bad calories and junk food harm your body.  The same is true in your thought life.  You must feed your mind not with junk or negativity but with information that is educational, inspirational, motivational and helpful.

I once heard a Pastor say, “We want God to take away all of the problems, pain, sorrow, suffering, and sadness.  But God wants to work on you first, because transformation won’t happen in your life until you renew your mind, until your thoughts begin to change.”  The older I get, the more I believe that statement.

So why is it so important that you and I learn how to renew your mind daily?  Let me give you three reasons.

Renew your mind, because your thoughts control your life.
The power of your thoughts has tremendous ability to shape your life for good or for bad.  For example, maybe you accept the thought someone told you when you were growing up, “You’re worthless.  You don’t matter.  You can’t do it”.  If you accepted that thought, even though it was wrong, it shaped your life.  What your mind hears the most it believes.

Renew your mind, because the mind is the battleground that determines if you win or lose in life.
Every battle that we fight in life first takes place in the mind.  So many people in the world have many more problems than you and yet, they succeed and prosper. Why?  They have learned that the only barrier between them and anything they desire is the way they THINK!  One of the reasons why we get mentally fatigued is because there’s a battle in our brain 24 hours a day.  It’s debilitating because it’s intense, and it’s intense because our mind is our greatest asset.  So you and I must be intentional about renewing our mind.

Renew your mind, because it’s the key to peace and happiness.
An unrenewed mind leads to tension.  A renewed mind leads to tranquility.  An unrenewed mind leads to conflict.  A renewed mind leads to confidence.  When you don’t try to control your mind and the way you direct your thoughts, you will have an enormous amount of stress in your life.  But a renewed mind leads to strength, security and serenity!

There are no shortcuts.  There is no magical formula for renewing our minds.  But the effort, energy and time to develop the daily habit of renewing your mind will help you flourish all the days of your life.

Remember, if it is in your mind, it is in your future, Baby!!!


For the past five years my wife and I have taught a class at our church titled “Renewing Your Mind”.  It’s based on one of the best pieces of wisdom from scriptures:  Romans 12:2   “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”     We love teaching this class because our personal experience with life’s battles have confirmed two things.

First, in this world you will have disappointments, discouragement and let downs.  Almost every morning most of us get arrows of unbelief, doubt and negative thoughts shot at our minds.  So everyone faces different seasons in life where worry, fear or lack of peace try to grip their lives.  Secondly, you can have victory in life, flourish personally, grow professionally and enjoy the journey of life but you must change the way you think daily.  You must be intentional about renewing your mind every day then you will prosper and experience success at all levels.

Think about it.  When you watch TV for long periods of time you’ll see all sorts of products advertised to make you younger looking, thinner, smarter, richer and more successful.  They all claim to change your life.  But the FACT is the starting point to change our lives begins in our mind.  I believe God has given you and me the ability to be transformed and to reach our full potential and it begins with the way we THINK.  The reason some people are stuck at the same level is because they don’t believe or see themselves growing, increasing and getting healthier.

Today I want to challenge you to renew your mind daily.  Renewing your mind is more than learning new things.  It’s about changing.  It’s a conscious effort to:

  1. Become aware of how we really think and believe.
  2. Understand how we should be thinking.
  3. Implementing daily thinking disciplines that will change our lives.


The research shows that there are several benefits to renewing your mind daily.  A few are:

  1.  Healthier emotions.
  2. Clearer thoughts.
  3. Happier homes.
  4. Greater respect.
  5. Eternal optimism.


Next week I’ll give you some practical tips you can implement daily to win the war in your mind.  THINK BIG, THINK POSITIVE!


The Wisdom of the Ant – Part II

Remember the old fable about the ant and the grasshopper? The ant works hard all year long to store up for winter, while the grasshopper plays and gather nothing. When winter hits and the snows fall, the grasshopper begins to starve and must go to the ants in order to survive. Meanwhile, the ants are warm, safe and secure—and they have plenty to help the grasshopper out in his need. Proverbs 6:6-8 says:

Go to the ant, you sluggard;
Consider her ways and be wise!
Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler,
She provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.

Today I want to continue our study of the ant. Last week I shared about this great Proverb that talks about the ant and specifically on the part that says, “Consider her ways and be wise.” Let’s take a moment away from our already formed perceptions about ants, and set out fresh with an open mind to explore and receive what we can learn from these tiny, yet fascinating, creatures.

More observations:

Ants are tireless. Ants always keep themselves busy. However, they are busy doing something, unlike many individuals who are busy doing nothing. To be tireless means that one never slacks or stops until the job is complete.

Ants are great planners. Because they plan ahead when winter comes, they have stored up enough food to provide for their colony. Even during bitter cold, they never lack anything. Ants are better planners than most people. You have to plan your work and work your plan.

Ants are great teammates. Everything an ant does benefits the other ants. Almost on autopilot, each ant knows their duties and works hard at completing their task. Some are moving material, some are tunneling and others are looking for food. They understand and complete their duties. There is no “I” in “ant.” They get the value of teamwork.

Ants make the most of every opportunity. Unlike many people who live their lives without taking advantage of their opportunities, these little creatures know how to handle every resource and opportunity that comes their way and so should we.

The fact is little things make a huge difference, and up until I started studying the ant, I never knew you could learn such BIG LESSONS from such a small creature. If you consider studying the ant in-depth, you’ll conclude that they are excellent at creating communities that work together and are in unison, all working in harmony. That should be the goal for all of our organizations too!

The Wisdom of the Ant

I’ve been writing MENTAL SNACKS for almost 15 years and needed to take a break. After a seven month sabbatical, I’m back! Just a quick thank you to many of you who emailed and inquired about your Mental Snacks. The longer I live the more I realize how important it is to keep feeding on healthy Mental Snacks to overcome the negative world around us.

Over the past several months, a lot has happened. Unfortunately, I lost my mother and hero in May. Recently, I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with my best friend. Like most of you, I’ve been busy trying to lead and serve my family, organization, community and country. I’ve been able to read several great books that I’m going to recommend at the end of this Snack.

Today I want to share some thoughts from the ANT. Yes, the ant. There is a great proverb I have read over the years that says, “Consider her ways and be wise.” I decided to do a little study on ants and in the process, discovered there is a whole lot we can learn from ants that can pay big dividends in our lives. I was amazed how one of the smallest creatures on earth can become one of the best teachers for us. For the next two weeks I’m going to share a few insights from the ant.

Here are a few for you to consider this week:

1. Ants have a CAN DO ATTITUDE and TAKE INITIAIVE!  Lesson:  Ants don’t need a boss or other people to tell them to get started.
2. Ants have a habit and nature of INTEGRITY!  Lesson:  Ants work diligently and faithfully consistently. They don’t need any outside accountability to keep them doing the right things or going the right way.
3. Ants have a STRONG WORK ETHIC!  Lesson:  Ants constantly work hard and don’t complain when things don’t go their way. If their anthill gets ruined they just get to work to rebuild a new one. They are diligent workers and frequently carry loads larger than themselves.
4. Ants are PERSISTENT!  Lesson:  Whenever ants encounter obstacles they find a way around them. They don’t give up and neither should you!

I love to read books and frankly, prefer to learn than to be entertained. Many times I feel like Groucho Marx who said, “I find television to be very educational. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room, and I read a book.” So for those of who are interested, every few months I recommend books that I believe can add value to your life.  Here are a few:

1.  7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness-  Eric Metaxas
2.  More or Less- Jeff Shinabarger
3.  Margin- Richard Swenson, M.D.
4.  The Cost of Discipleship- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
5.  Necessary Endings – Dr. Henry Cloud

P.S. Remember, a person that can read but doesn’t is no better off than the person who can’t read.


Overcoming Disappointments and Failure

Lately I have come across many people that are discouraged. Many are hearing false and negative voices in their minds like, “There is no hope,” “You’re a failure,” “Your life is a mess,” “Nothing good lies ahead for you,” or “You’ll never make it.” These are all lies! Just because you’re temporarily feeling these discouraging emotions doesn’t mean that they are real. Let me explain further.

There are times when all of us feel like we’ve hit a dead end, and we don’t know where or how to move forward. Whether it’s work, a relationship, money or your health, these feelings arise when we think we’ve failed, disappointed that things haven’t gone our way, made a bad decision or think we have been misunderstood. Today, I want to remind you that regardless of your set back—YOU CAN and WILL COME BACK. People don’t drown in water because they fall in, but because they stay there and don’t get up. I like what Les Brown says, “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up. Let your reason get you back up.” He is right on.

Here are four ways to overcome disappointment or failure:

1. Focus on the process, not the results.
Just because you didn’t reach a specific goal you set doesn’t mean you can’t still do what you’d like to do. It’s not over just because you didn’t create one specific outcome. If you keep doing what you love, you will inevitably identify new opportunities and possibilities that will fulfill you. Another benefit of adopting a process-oriented approach is that it’s easier to be mindful when you focus on the action steps. This doesn’t mean you stop setting goals and measuring your progress toward them. It just means you let each step fuel your sense of meaning, joy and accomplishment.

2. Discover the VALUE in failure.
I can share with you many stories of entrepreneurs and companies that eventually succeeded after many failures, but I’m not only talking about monetary success. I’m talking about personal success—bouncing back from a disappointment and continuing to move forward on the path that makes you happy. One of the greatest achievements in life is the choice to be empowered—not paralyzed—by a disappointment. There is no greater success than the ability to take responsibility for your own joy.

3. Find opportunities in adversity.
There’s a story about a young boy who was looking to get a job. Everywhere he went, he heard they weren’t hiring, so he decided to set a new goal. For each company he visited, he would either get a job or sell them a “Not hiring” sign which he would make himself. When we think outside the box, we might not get what we want, but we’re more apt to get what we need.

4.  Create your own luck.
I don’t believe in luck but do believe in creating my own. Psychologist Richard Wiseman in his book, The Luck Factor, found that extraverted people who are open to new ideas and possibilities tend to consider themselves lucky. His theory is that their willingness to engage with people and consider different opportunities—coupled with their ability to encounter adversity without falling into despair—positioned them for good fortune.

The fact is, if we keep our eyes open, we will inevitably see opportunities in life. It’s the difference between walking with your head held high and noticing a rainbow or walking with your gaze on your feet and seeing only puddles. Remember, you best days are ahead. It’s time to get up, brush off the dust and get moving again. IT’S TIME FOR ACTION!

Happy New Year!

As we prepare to usher in the New Year I want to ask you, WHAT KIND OF A YEAR ARE YOU EXPECTING TO HAVE IN 2013? I love the beginning of a new year because the slate is clean and we can start many things in our lives fresh. The fact is there will be some things that happen which are beyond our control and some things that are within our control. I want to challenge you to not worry about or much less dwell on things we can’t control, but instead focus on those things which you do have control and responsibility over. I learned a long time ago that the better job we do of preparing for our goals, responsibilities and outcomes we want, the better equipped we are to handle any unplanned and unpredictable parts of life that are sure to happen in the new year.

Today I want to remind you of five important areas that will impact the type of year you have. As you read them, ask yourself, “Is that an area that is a focus for me? Am I doing that?” If you are, to what degree?

1. Feed your MIND good & healthy stuff. Stop reading negative information, listening to negative people or watching cable network news. If this sounds like you most of the time, all you are doing is filling your mind up with FEAR. Replace that data and information with education that can help you improve personally and professionally. Read studies about the future trends and possibilities. Read inspirational stories that will motivate you and scriptures that will strengthen you. If you don’t program your mind yourself, the world will for sure with its negative, limiting and cynical messages.

2. Invest your TIME in 2013…don’t just spend it. We all have the exact same amount of time at our disposal. Yet, why is it that few maximize the moments and accomplish more than others? They have simply put a VALUE on time. They understand about time, what real estate agents say about land: “They’re not making any more of it.” The time we have is the time we get. Write down your PRIORITIES. Think about your practices and pursuits. Become conscious of how you are using your time.

3. Exercise your GRATITUDE muscle. Years ago I discovered that gratefulness is a muscle not a feeling. We need to work it out daily. Every morning when I wake up I thank God for the gift of life (don’t take it for granted). Make it a habit every day to THANK at least one person that has helped you. Being grateful daily will help you focus your mind on what you have…not what you don’t.

4. Purchase an EMPTY BOOK. I want to challenge you to keep a notebook or journal of your lessons learned, experiences you’ve had and goals/dreams you have. This is not a diary of events, but a record of what you’re learning. Write down the insights and lessons you are learning about life, work, yourself and everything else. You’ll want to capture “points of wisdom.” If life is worth living, it is worth recording. Don’t trust your memory.

5. Remember, you are BLESSED to be a BLESSING. I want to remind you to SAVE some money in 2013…don’t just spend it all. Too many Americans have more month than money in their budget. If you’re not saving a few dollars every month you will not be able to afford an unplanned event. Also, hopefully you have an opportunity to be generous to those who are living in poverty, or give to charities that are making a difference in the lives of people. So when it comes to money this year, make all you can, save all you can, give all you can. Legendary coach John Wooden once said, “You can’t have a perfect day without doing something for someone who’ll never be able to repay you.” He was right!

Cheers to a GREAT 2013! The BEST IS YET TO COME!

Lessons from the Weekend

This past weekend I was reminded of two important ingredients to succeeding and reaching your full potential. First, Friday night I attended an event where my partner and extraordinary entrepreneur, Rolfe McCollister, was one of four people being inducted into LSU’s College of Business Hall of Distinction. Steve Forbes was the keynote speaker and delivered a brilliant message. As I sat and listened to this distinguished group of honorees give their acceptance speech, I was reminded of three important lessons all of us need to remember on our way to the top or in the short season that we are at the top. I share them with you in hopes that you will not only remember them for your life but pass them on to those you mentor.

1.  NOBODY SUCCEEDS ALONE. No one makes it to the TOP of their company, industry, field or organization without others. It takes other people to help us, mentor us, coach us, correct us, compliment us and support us in order to succeed. All of them thanked their spouses, family, friends, staff and co-workers for their contributions. Every one of them realized that it took others to help them along their journey.

2.  YOU HAVE TO DREAM AND VISUALIZE YOUR SUCCESS. The acorn becomes an oak tree in time. A dream becomes a reality in time. All of these high achievers had a picture in their head of their potential and possibilities in business. What happens in your mind usually happens in time. Use your imagination to visualize future successes in your career. You have to be intentional about where you want to go, what you want to be and have in life.

3.  NEVER GIVE UP. Endurance is the quality of winners. Every one of the honorees being inducted experienced setbacks, obstacles and even heartache along the journey. Successful people never quit believing and never quit reaching but keep pursuing their goals. They are tenacious and continue to learn and grow throughout their lifetime. Quitting is not an option.

Secondly, on Saturday I watched one of my boys come into his own during a basketball game. Let me explain. I have twin boys who are both great kids but have polar opposite personalities. One is full of confidence, aggressive and has lots of talent but does not put in the time to practice like his brother. The other twin studies everything and practices hard but lacked what I thought
was aggressiveness. He can shoot better than anyone on the team but hardly gets to shoot because he isn’t aggressive enough, and he can dribble very well but for some reason, come game time, didn’t display his full talent.

Fast forward to Saturday’s basketball game. In the second half, I’m screaming like crazy to go after his shot (he is playing point guard). He takes the in-bound pass, cross dribbles past not one but two defenders, pulls up for a jump shot near the top of the key and makes the shot—ALL NET! He is only nine years old, but his moves and smoothness of his shot looked like an NBA player (or at least NCAA player)! All of a sudden his entire countenance changed, and so did his game. It was after the game that I realized that he had been missing that one key ingredient necessary to be successful—CONFIDENCE. He had finally found his confidence.

What about you? Are you feeling strong and confident about your work or current assignment? Don’t allow lack of self confidence to hold you back. Remember, it’s not the mountain that we must conquer but ourselves. Today, I want to remind you that you were created to accomplish an assignment, and you were born for a purpose. You have inside of you all the potential to achieve your goals. When you start to feel a little down, remember the words of Karen Ravn who wrote:

“Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be.”