Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Forgiveness matters

I had breakfast this morning with a man who's face has haunted me for the past few years, though I barely know him. He had played a small role in a deep betrayal years ago related to another business. He wasn't responsible for it, but because he had a played a role, and because I didn't know him well, it was easy for me to cast him as the villain in my mind. Blaming him also made it easier to forgive the others involved... those I knew, loved, and wanted to forgive.

I hadn't planned to ever confront him about what he'd done. What would be the point? I don't see him, interact with him, or really even know him. Our business together is through and we don't share the same friends. It's all in the past, so why go digging it up again? Right?

That changed when I recently discovered that we now attend the same church. I was polite and greeted him cheerfully when I saw him, but inside I recoiled. I felt genuine distaste for him, and acting as though I felt otherwise made me feel slimy, dirty, awful.

I put it off for a few weeks, but my conscience wouldn't let it go. He is my brother in Christ, we attend the same church, and like it or not, I needed to go to him and lay it all out, "Mathew 18" style. Even as I prayed about it this morning before I went, I told the Lord I didn't think it would do much good.

I was quite wrong. It did do some good. It did a lot of good. To my surprise, the man was deeply and genuinely remorseful. I even felt badly for him. He'd been carrying around the guilt and it clearly weighed on him. Almost immediately, I found that I couldn't wait to forgive him -- and to seek his forgiveness for my waiting so long to go to him. Hearing his story also gave me a different perspective on the position he'd been in at the time.

I left feeling... knowing that chapter in my life was finally closed. At last.

Don't think for a moment that because it's "business" that it's not personal. It's all personal. And it's all spiritual. This is Kingdom work we're doing and Kingdom rules apply. That includes Mathew 18.

Monday, May 26, 2008

One Good Idea

Yesterday I had a pool party. These are always fun for a variety of reasons. One of the smaller ones is seeing the reaction of those who are seeing my home for the first time. ("Dream House" would be a fair description.)

One such person asked how on earth I'd become so successful. Before I could respond with something about the Lord's blessing, another friend interrupted and answered for me...

"He had a really good idea."

Pretty succinct. I smiled politely because it was the only thing to do. After all, it is what most people think, isn't it?

What I wanted to say was that I've had thousands of "good" ideas (haven't we all?); pursued hundreds of them on some level; poured my heart, soul, money, energy, and even years of my life into at least ten of them; and THEN discovered a few that have indeed brought success. Incredibly, the success has also been wildly disproportionate to both the quality of the idea and the amount of work I've put in, and that can be accounted to nothing but the blessing of the Lord.

It's easier, of course, to think that all it takes is "one good idea." Frankly, I'm not that smart.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Payoff from Dropping Business School

Last fall I started the Executive MBA program at Vanderbilt University. I quit at the end of the first semester. Had I continued, I would now be finishing my second semester and would be halfway done with earning my MBA. Here are the things that happened as a direct result of not being in school this semester.

1. I trained for and ran a full marathon – 26.2 miles in 4:10.
2. I lost the fifteen pounds I gained while in school, plus five more.
3. I learned to snowboard and discovered that I LOVE it!
4. I became actively involved at a new church and began developing several meaningful friendships there.
5. I attended my first Tony Robbins seminar. It dramatically impacted both my personal life and how I run my company.
6. I tripled the size of my advisory team.
7. I walked through fire.
8. I read ten new books relevant to business and leadership, a few of which have had a profound impact on my effectiveness.
9. I spent a week mountain biking in Moab, Utah.
10. I helped a friend change the direction of his life.
11. I dropped everything for a week to assist a family member during a time of crisis.
12. I started this blog.

There was plenty more that happened during these last five months, but those twelve items are all things that I can say absolutely would not have happened had I been in school.

At the time, the decision to quit Vanderbilt was one of the most difficult of my life. I agonized over it for months. For some of us, quitting is really hard. Frankly, it should be. Sometimes, though, it is absolutely the right thing to do.

None of the above was why I quit – at least not directly. I may write about my reasons more in another post, but it did seem that I was paying a huge time cost for what was a small amount of useful knowledge (for me). In that sense, I suppose the list above was the reason. I knew I would be missing out on a lot of life by spending my days in classes that I didn’t find useful. If I’d realized just how much life I’d be missing, the decision would have been a lot easier.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jack Daniels and Legacy Learning

On a whim, and mostly because I needed an excuse to take a long motorcycle ride, I followed the back roads from Nashville out to Lynchburg, Tennessee for a tour of the Jack Daniels distillery. I had no idea what I was in for. I’ve never been much of a whisky man, but what I saw on that tour was truly inspiring. I can learn a lot about my own company from ol’ Jack.

Forgive me if I sound a bit like a whisky commercial for a minute here, but a little background is necessary. The Jack Daniels distillery still operates in the same idilic backwoods setting that it did when it was founded in 1866. Despite being the number one selling whisky in the world, not much has changed in the way it’s made, and our tour guide, a hillbilly whisky man if there ever was one and quite a character, walked us through the whole process. The grains are all harvested locally. So is the sweet maple birch that is burned one small brick at a time to make the charcoal used in the distilling process. Jack Daniels is one of only two distilleries that makes their own charcoal, and they do it exactly as they did over a hundred years ago. They also make their own barrels – by hand – and they are the only distillery to do so. The entire process is remarkably old school, despite the fact that they produce more bottles per day than any other brand in the world.

The company's commitment to doing things the old way (and the slow way) was incredible. What was truly remarkable, however, was the passion that goes into it. The people who work there LOVE Jack Daniels, and they are incredibly proud both of its history and its commitment to quality. The passion they have for it is contagious. I couldn’t care less about whisky, but I left knowing that from that day forward, no other brand would be served in my house. Jack Daniels has many fanatical customers who love Jack Daniels whisky because they can taste the quality, time, and pride that go into it. My palate isn’t that sophisticated, but I’ve seen the quality, time, and pride that go into it, and I won’t serve anything else again.

As I walked from whisky building to whisky building, I couldn’t help but think about my own company. If Jack Daniels and his successors could build that much passion into something as insignificant (and harmful) as whisky, how much more should I be building into my company – a company that purports to help people reach their personal dreams. What will people say about that company 100 years from now? Will it even exist? And if it does, will my passion for what we do still pulse through its veins?

I only have one life. I don’t want to waste one day of it chasing a quick buck or building things that are fleeting. After I die, I won’t much care whether people flock to my statue to have their picture taken, as I saw them do at Jack Daniels’ monument. I honestly don't care if they even remember my name. But I do care whether the work I do will stand the test of time; whether it will be good enough to still be helping people reach their dreams long after I’ve passed on.

To do so, of course, requires a standard of excellence that few have the stomach for. It’s not enough to build products that “satisfy” your customers or earn you two-thumbs up from reviewers. It’s not enough to do what’s expected of a professional organization. Building things that will stand the test of time requires a passion for excellence that goes far beyond what’s necessary.

Legacy Learning Systems helps people reach their personal dreams. The dreams they'd almost given up on. The things they’ve always wanted to learn, but never thought they’d get around to. That matters. Doing it passionately enough for it to last for generations matters even more.

What our company creates matters a whole lot more than whisky, so if Jack can do it, so will we. It will be our Legacy.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why this blog?

Those of you who are acquaintances may be wondering why on earth I would want to add blogging to my list of things to do. Those who know me well won't wonder at all.

As with most things in my life, I hope to share and inspire. Whether anyone cares to listen is another story, but the process itself is good for me. What's more, I hope this blog will resonate with those I work with, both in "real world" work with my company and in "Kingdom work" with my church, friends, and others. I hope they will find inspiration and perhaps a few pearls of wisdom here. I expect to find a few of my own through the process.