Are You a Sheep or a Wolf?

Are You a Sheep or a Wolf?

Are you a Sheep or Wolf-

 

“The world is full of sheep and wolves.  To protect the sheep you need to learn to fight like a wolf.”

This last week I had the opportunity to participate in a unique four day survival course that my wife and I hosted at our property, Liberty Ridge Ranch.  The course was instructed by some of our military’s finest from the US Special Forces, Navy Seals, and Delta Force.  My good friend Omar Hamada, MD, a veteran Major of the US Army Special Forces, developed the unique survival course along with several other elite US military professionals. 

Having just completed the construction of our new 2A Shooting Range, designed by one of the Special Forces operators, I was personally excited to not only host the program, but to also participate in it.  Who wouldn’t enjoy a prolonged period of firing a 9mm Glock 19, learning many other basic survival skills and spending four days with our nation’s finest?  So many things stood out from the course and perhaps I’ll take some time in another post to share them, but the opening statement above made a deep impression on me.  I’ll reiterate it here again:

“The world is full of sheep and wolves.  To protect the sheep you need to learn to fight like a wolf.”

To understand this quote, it’s important to identify some of the traits of sheep:

Sheep tend to follow other sheep.
Sheep are instinctively fearful.
Sheep like the familiar and resist change.
Sheep are not very intelligent.
Sheep have no sense of direction.
Sheep are defenseless.
Sheep are weak.
Sheep walk ignorantly to their death.

While sheep certainly have some positive qualities as well, for purposes of this post I’m focused on the traits above.   

On the other hand, wolves have the following characteristics:

Wolves are swift runners, reaching speeds of up to 25 mph.
Wolves are well equipped for hunting.
Wolves have a keen sense of smell, able to track their prey up to 300 yards away.
Wolves are not intimidated by animals larger than themselves and regularly hunt and kill animals many times their size.
Wolves are well equipped for the harshest of environments.
Wolves have a good sense of direction and maintain control over their territories.

As I consider the various characteristics of both these animals, I think there is a lot we can learn from them for many different areas of our life.

Personal

I think it’s safe to say that most Americans are closer to sheep than wolves.  Many people are quite comfortable following others.  They are seldom critical thinkers and are normally unwilling to contradict the popular beliefs, attitudes or accepted norms.  Fear is a common quality amongst most people resulting in them being unwilling to speak up or stand for unpopular beliefs.  They are quite comfortable with the status quo.  And truthfully, many folks are unwilling to continue to grow intellectually.  It’s not that they are incapable.  They just settle into the rut of living and don’t seek to grow beyond that rut.  All too often people wander through life, unsure where they are going, and unwilling to set goals and strive for them.  And sadly, so many folks are unable or unwilling to defend themselves from real or potential threats, if they are confronted with them.  

While all of these traits don’t apply uniformly or completely to all, I believe that too many Americans today reflect a disproportionate number of these traits.  Because of this reality, it’s incumbent that some learn to develop the qualities of wolves, including the ability to fight as them.  Equipping ourselves for the variety of threats that could surface at any given moment is a critical trait of a wolf.  Alertness to either our present surroundings, or trends that are developing, are a way that we can detect what may be over the figurative horizon.  By doing so we will not only mitigate the threat to us personally but also to those we love and care for, who embrace sheep-like qualities.

Business

In business, we find many sheep-like folks as well.  Too often employees, managers and even owners can settle into the rut.  Their aspirations falter.  Their dreams die.  And they fear change, risk and what others might think.  As a result, what they might have achieved falls by the way side. 

Meanwhile, the wolves in business, are all too willing and eager to pursue their symbolic prey, the goals they have set for themselves, their career or their business.  They understand that the hunt will be difficult, tiring and even fraught with instances of failure.  But they continue to press on, knowing that the one who doesn’t win is the one who never starts or simply gives up.  For wolves, failure is merely one step closer to success.  And through it all, the “wolf” style business person maintains a keen sense of direction and focus.  He is not overcome by the size of the struggles but rather he rallies his “pack” to help him in defeating the struggles.   

So while the sheep are easy prey and too often lose in business, the wolf is smart, keen, strategic and unstoppable, resulting in the business success he seeks.

Preparedness

In my recent article entitled “The Wildly Profitable Gift Shop on the Titanic: Our Response” I addressed the coming collapse and disaster that is front and center for America.  While the facts seem incontrovertible, the vast majority of Americans are behaving as sheep.  Sadly, just a few of our citizens exhibit the traits of a wolf.  If there is ever a time when America needs wolves it is now.  Yet, human nature exudes sheep-like qualities. Thus while the wolves prepare, the sheep will not. 

So when that day arrives you and your family can be prepared, to not only weather the storm, but to also reach out to the sheep in your life who were too fearful to acknowledge, too oblivious to discern, or too weak to prepare.  And in so doing, you can be a wolf that will ultimately protect those sheep around you who might have been providentially placed in your care.

So, I encourage you to regularly analyze your thoughts and behavior through the question “Are you a sheep or wolf?” and to seek to embrace the traits of a wolf, in your personal and business life.

Mark

References:
schoolworkhelper.net/wolves-habitat-characteristics-behaviors/
www.heraldmag.org/2004/04ja_8.htm
www.preacherscorner.org/sheep2.htm
Photo credits:
Wolf: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_erika8213′>erika8213 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Sheep: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_mihaitamasila’>mihaitamasila / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
The Secret to Knowing God’s Will, In Business and Life

The Secret to Knowing God’s Will, In Business and Life

Secret to Knowing God's Will In Business & Life

 

Recently a good friend of mine was questioning about how to know God’s will for his life and in particular his business.  If you’re like me and my friend, you’ve likely also wondered just what is God’s will for your life.  There have been many times when God’s will has seemed elusive to me, even when I’ve tried to earnestly seek and find it. 

So is there a way to really know what God has in store for you and me?

I believe so and it involves two components. To be clear, I am not suggesting these two components are the only requirements, but they are integral to discovering God’s will for you and me. 

Component 1

The first is the foundation for knowing God’s will, and it forms the basis for even communicating with God. It is an intimate, familial relationship. To know God as our Father, we must first be His child. And contrary to the popular myth, we are not all children of God simply by the mere fact that we are part of humanity.

Rather, we become a child of God through a conscious step and decision.  We must acknowledge our need of Him, our absolute brokenness, that we have violated His laws, and that the only way to secure a relationship with God is through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, who died in your place and mine, as the penalty for our wrongdoings or sins.  And three days after his death, Jesus rose again and seeks a personal relationship with us.

As we admit our utter need of Christ’s redemption, believe in Jesus as our Savior, and confess our sins to God, we then become one of God’s children. Only then do we have a basis to approach our Creator to know His will for our life. 

Component 2

Many a person who has done this though, still struggles with knowing God’s will. Why is this?  I believe it is because we have focused our search on the wrong object. 

If you needed to know how to use a complex software system and you had the opportunity to either try to figure it out on your own or you could actually spend quality time with the designer of the program, which would you choose?  I’d choose time with the designer every time.  As I spend time with him, I can inquire of the designer, find out the secrets to the software system, and get the scoop on how it works.

In Matthew 6:33 we are told to “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

In the context of the chapter, we understand that “these things” are the common issues of life we all deal with, from needs to dreams, and health to wealth.  

We are clearly told to stop focusing our attention on all “these things” and to rather place our priority on seeking God, getting to know Him, investing in our relationship with Him. As we get to know not only the Designer of the universe, but also the One who designed your life and mine, God’s will for you and me will come into focus.

This is the secret of life that too often creates a conundrum for us. To know the purpose of our life we must seek and know the Author of life, God Himself. And as we do that, His will and purpose for you and me will be known. 

When we struggle to find God’s will for our lives we often find that peace also eludes us. This dilemma reminds me of the bumper sticker that says:

No God. No Peace.
Know God. Know Peace. 

So if you are struggling to know God’s will for your life, I trust you first secure a relationship with God and through that relationship, I pray you will seek Him with all your heart. Only then will “all these things be added unto you.

Mark

 

Dream Big: Reversing Obama’s Fundamental Transformation

Dream Big: Reversing Obama’s Fundamental Transformation

Dream Big- Obama Fundamental Transformation

We are five days away from fundamentally transforming America” were ominous words uttered by Barack Obama just five days before his election in 2008.  And seven years later we see that Obama’s goal has greatly been achieved, due to his undying commitment to his ideals.  Tragically though, his agenda has been enabled by the unwillingness of his Republican opponents to stand on their professed ideals.  But that’s a whole separate story and not the subject of my thoughts today.

But what if you and I could reverse Obama’s fundamental transformation of our nation?  What if the damage and lawlessness perpetrated by this two-term President could be undone?  Would that be a Patriot’s dream come true?  

Over the next few minutes let’s dare to dream together about the first day after the Obama presidency, January 20, 2017.  On that day we will dare to dream big, that our new Commander in Chief will take five decisive acts to begin the process of unravelling Obama’s radical transformation, as follows:

Act 1:  Rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive order from Obama

Throughout the seven years of the Obama administration’s lawlessness, we have seen an unprecedented attack on our Constitution by the Executive branch.  During his tenure, Obama has boasted that he can circumvent Congress via his “pen and phone.”  And he has done just that.  But most recently his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, promisedWe’ll do audacious executive action over the course of the rest of the year, I’m confident of that.”  So in addition to the last seven years, we can expect an even greater willingness by Obama to take bold risks, showing an impudent lack of respect for our Constitution, our Congress and the People themselves.

But in act one of our dream, on January 20, 2017, every one of Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional executive orders will be rescinded by our new President. Reversed. Gone. Period.

Act 2:  Instruct Department of Justice to commence investigation into Planned Parenthood 

In 2014 Planned Parenthood aborted and murdered over 330,000 babies.  But as evil as this is, in 2015 our nation witnessed even more shocking and horrific truths about Planned Parenthood as a result of a number of undercover videos.  These videos exposed the heinous activities of this organization including the illegal sale of body parts from aborted babies.  The graphic and disturbing footage included conversations with executives and staffers from Planned Parenthood and their affiliates.  Much of the nation’s media and many of our political leaders have largely ignored or defended these immoral and deeply disturbing acts by Planned Parenthood. 

But on January 20th of next year, in our dream, we will finally see an investigation into Planned Parenthood to determine what laws have been broken and who should be held responsible for these reprehensible actions.

Act 3:  Direct the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service to put an end to the persecution of religious liberty

The first guarantee listed in the first Amendment to our nation’s Constitution is that of religious freedom:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Yet, over the course of the last 7 years, we have seen an unprecedented attack on this most fundamental freedom by the Obama Administration via his Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service.  In case after case, we have seen these two agencies highly politicized in a manner that has consistently sought to restrain and restrict the right of American citizens to exercise their faith, both publicly as well as privately.  

But in our dream, once again on January 20th of the new year, we will see the assault by these two agencies halted and religious freedom will once again be affirmed and respected by our President, his administration and our government’s agencies.

Act 4:  Cancel the Iran deal

For years now, Iran has been the world’s number one sponsor of terrorism.  And while Iran, one of America’s most troubling adversaries for four decades, consistently chants “death to America” and pledges its commitment to the utter destruction of Israel, President Obama pursued and consummated a dangerous nuclear deal with this rogue nation.  Obama’s deal lifted sanctions from Iran, provided them with $150 billion that had been frozen, and is providing Iran with access to advanced technologies that will likely assist them in ultimately developing their own nuclear arsenal.  Imagine for a brief moment a nuclear Iran as they threaten to annihilate Israel and develop ballistic missiles capable of launching nuclear warheads.  But this nightmare scenario will be averted in our dream on January 20th as the entire Iran deal is cancelled, and the agreement is ripped to shreds by our new President.

Act 5:  Move US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

As one of America’s greatest allies, Israel stands as a beacon of democracy in the middle east, sharing many of our nation’s values.  However, for decades now, our nation’s Presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have failed to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Given the constant threats that Israel has faced from terrorists and many of its neighbors, previous Presidents have lacked the political strength to relocate the embassy.  However, as the region and many nations around the world continue to ramp up their antagonism of Israel, including boycotting the tiny Jewish nation, moving our embassy to Jerusalem would be a strong sign of support for Israel.  Recalling the role that President Truman played in 1948 in recognizing Israel’s rebirth, there might be no better way to consummate our dream on January 20, 2017 than to see our nation move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

While we have been dreaming throughout this article, there’s a way in which our dream’s five acts could come actually true.  You see, Senator Ted Cruz has committed that on day one of a Cruz Presidency, he would in fact take these five decisive steps..  So while our dream today is just that, a dream, there is a way in which we can turn it into reality as follows:

  1. If your state has not yet held its primary/caucus, then be sure to vote for Ted Cruz.
  2. Go to tedcruz.org and sign up for regular updates.
  3. While you’re there, consider contributing to the Cruz campaign, even if it’s just $10 or more.
  4. Keep Ted, Heidi and their entire team in your prayers.

Finally, encourage others to dream with you, and let’s do our part to turn our dream into reality on January 20, 2017 with a Ted Cruz Presidency!

Mark

13 Hours: Warriors Aren’t Trained to Retire

13 Hours: Warriors Aren’t Trained to Retire

America-America-Banner3

This last week I had the opportunity to view the newly released Hollywood movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Having followed the tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, I was eager to view the movie. The film tells the true story of four Americans killed, including our Ambassador, during an attack by Islamic jihadists at a US compound in Libya, as a security team struggled to defend the lives of several dozen Americans.

While there were several scenes and lines that stood out to me in the film, one in particular is the subject of my post today. The main characters in the story, Jack Silva and Tyrone Woods, were retired Navy Seals and long time friends.

In the relevant scene, the two are sitting on the rooftop of one of the building in the compound they are defending, following an intense battle in which they and their small team had just survived one of what was to be several waves of attacks from dozens of heavily armed Islamists. As Jack recounts his frustration with having left his wife and children behind in the US to sign up for another stint on the security team, he expresses his bewilderment at what drives him to continue to return to the battlefield. In response Tyrone explains that, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire.

If one isn’t paying attention in the movie, it would be easy to miss this line that succinctly explains the behavior of these Navy Seal warriors. But the line, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire” is also a statement that bears examining for possible application to our lives.

No matter where you are in life, the concept of retirement is one that has crossed your mind. In our culture, it’s commonly accepted that all who work will eventually retire and begin a life of leisure. Typically the word retirement is tied to two variables: age and economics. And it generally looks like this. A person will work 40-50 years, create sufficient assets and related income, so that when they are 60-70 years of age, they can “retire” and live happily ever after.

The “happily ever after” can change from one person to the next, but for most it ranges from moving to Florida, playing golf several times a week, traveling, or a host of other R&R type activities.

But this “conventional” approach would seem at odds with the point Tyrone was making to Jack, that warriors just don’t know how to retire because it isn’t something that is taught, or perhaps more importantly, even contemplated. While becoming a warrior involves training and know-how, to be an effective warrior it also requires a certain type of spirit or mental attitude that never quits. A warrior understands that there is always another mission and his skills and know-how are not expendable; rather, they are desperately needed by others.

When thinking of your own circumstances, I’d like to challenge you to consider what you will do with your life once you are no longer gainfully employed. Many eagerly await that day, believing that punching out that last time will be the start of all things new and better, anticipating that the grass is greener on the other side.

But I’d suggest that if we are working today to simply stop working tomorrow, we are overlooking one of life’s greatest purposes. Despite our 21st century way of thinking, the world hasn’t always considered that when one reaches a certain age or economic status, he can then simply turn his attention inward, seeking to devote much of his waking hours at that point to his own fancies and pleasure.

To the contrary, I would suggest that at the point one leaves the office for the last time, it is then that one’s experience, wisdom and perhaps even passion have likely reached a crescendo. And if we believe the truth that “to whom much is given, much is required” then we will be compelled to share the wisdom and life experiences we have gained with others in need. Those “others” could be a young man who is just beginning his family and career, or a woman who is facing a difficult midlife challenge, or even an organization that is in desperate need of our expertise.

I have a friend who is an honorably discharged twenty-three year combat veteran of the US Army who beautifully exemplifies the idea that warriors don’t retire. Rather than head for the golf course or sandy beaches, Bob in his post-retirement years launched a new non-profit organization with a two-fold, synergistic mission: “To support military veterans by training and employing them in schools as classroom volunteers, tutors and mentors.” And today, Bob and his colleagues are making a huge difference in the lives of veterans and school children in my community.

So what about you? No matter whether you are in the first half of your career, or approaching those final years in your job or business, it’s never too early, or too late to be thinking about and planning for life after employment. I encourage you to seriously consider how you will invest into the lives of others in a way that will have deep and lasting impact for good… because “warriors aren’t trained to retire.

Mark

Leaving a Legacy: The Day After

Leaving a Legacy: The Day After

Leaving-a-Legacy

As this year winds down, many achievers and leaders begin to think about big picture issues. What did they accomplish this last year? What are their goals for the coming year, both personal and professional? What are their strategies to achieve those goals? But one area that oftentimes we forget to evaluate is just what kind of legacy are we leaving behind for those we love and care about?

Legacy

While this is a word we are familiar with, we oftentimes spend very little time focused on it. What is it that we want to leave behind once our days come to an end? Perhaps the reason our legacy oftentimes gets such little attention is that too often we act as if our days are unlimited, or at least we don’t see them coming to an end anytime soon.

Teach us wisdomBut if we are honest with ourselves, we can think back over the last year or two and we can name at least one person and perhaps several friends and/or family, who were with us then but have now passed on. And it’s likely we can also identify young friends who believed they had many more years to live. Yet they too have passed on.

Our days are numbered. For some, that will mean that 2016 will be the year in which their days wind down. For others, it will be further into the future. But for all of us, that final day is sure to come.

Now my intent is not to be morbid or to cause us any discomfort. Rather it is to simply recognize the obvious and to plan for the day after our final day. You see, the day after our final day on earth will be the day our legacy will be revealed. But the days leading up to that final day will be the days in which our legacy is created.

In order to create a legacy, though, there are several steps one must consider.

Be Intentional

To create suggests intentionality. It infers that there is a plan with a desired outcome. Intentionality is a trait that is found in the most successful leaders of our day. And so it stands to reason that when it comes to our own legacy, we must give thought to what it is we desire to leave behind. What are the qualities, attributes, and values we desire to communicate to our loved ones and sphere of influence that will impact them in a manner that will outlive our life? We must identify those values and then begin to make choices that prioritize and advance them.

Start Now

It’s a mistake to think that one must be older in life to focus one’s attention on their legacy. The truth is one is never too young to begin to establish their legacy and we never know when our legacy will be permanently etched. I recently read of Sergeant Dennis Weichel, a 29-year-old soldier with the Rhode Island National Guard, who gave his life to save a young Afghan girl. He was described as “the living embodiment of the Army’s core values: courageous, selfless and loyal.” In his short 29 years, Sergeant Weichel established a legacy that most of us would be honored to leave behind.

Re-chart your Legacy, if needed

While it’s true that now is the time to start one’s legacy, it’s also true that it’s never too late to re-chart one’s legacy. Too often in life we find ourselves down a road that we never intended to travel, yet one choice after another leads us to a destination we regret. Thankfully, so long as we are breathing, we have the opportunity to reverse course and re-chart a new destination. And as we do, we can begin to redefine our legacy.

I’m reminded of the criminal on the cross who hung next to Jesus on that seminal day for all of mankind. We have no background on the two criminals who hung there with Jesus. But we do know the ultimate outcome of both. And literally billions of people since that day know of the decision made by the one criminal who addressed Jesus with these words: “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” While no doubt this man’s past was one of shame and failure, with that one final choice, his legacy was established not only for the rest of recorded time but more importantly for all of eternity.

If your past is checkered and one you would rather forget, refocus your attention on the here and now. Make a decision today to change your legacy and begin on a new path of victory and success.

Find Legacy Role Models

Oftentimes the best way to achieve success is to find someone else who is succeeding and duplicate what they have done. Similarly, there is no shortage of men and women who have passed on but who left behind glowing legacies for us to follow and duplicate. I think of one such man, my father-in-law, Terry Morgan. Terry passed away nearly ten years ago and was someone who, from the world’s standards of financial abundance, would never be written up in any business journals. However, as Lori and I celebrated his life in the days following his passing, we were not only amazed but encouraged beyond words as person after person approached us and shared with us how Terry had impacted their lives. His consistent service to others because of his love for God, had such a broad impact on so many that there is no question that Terry left a glorious legacy, eternal in nature. And I’m certain that Terry has served as a role model for many he impacted.

As we wrap up this year and begin to think of the new one, let’s not overlook the importance of our legacies and what it is we want them to be. I trust the above steps will assist you as you seek to establish a legacy that will shine years into the future and influence many for good.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Apostle Paul

Mark

An Achiever’s Secret Weapon

An Achiever’s Secret Weapon

achiever-secret-weapon

No doubt you’re familiar with the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!” The concept suggests that it’s more important to have the right connections than having the right information or knowledge. Such a statement asserts that when it comes to getting ahead, your own learning and application of that knowledge is of lesser importance than simply knowing and/or befriending certain people.

Personally, I take issue with this connection-oriented approach to life that deemphasizes many other critical qualities. While I won’t deny that having connections and developing friendships can at times open doors, in my view this is a very sketchy and unpredictable way to live one’s life.

Recently I read a story that suggests there is a greater attribute than friendship that will determine whether you will achieve success in life. The story goes like this:

Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.”

The friend answers from his bed, “Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.”

But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need.

As you think about this story, what is clear is that the friendship between the two neighbors did not hold that much sway. What ultimately opened the door for the fellow who had no food was his persistence.

According to Webster, persistence is the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people.

There are few qualities more important than persistence for an entrepreneur or for life in general. At times persistence can require that one should continue on the same path since the problem is not the effort, strategy or idea itself but rather timing may be the real issue. However, it could be that the business concept may be valid but the strategy, pricing or message may need to be tweaked or revised.

I can think back to a time in my company when we had a large number of properties that we had recently built and we were in the process of seeking to increase their occupancy. Some of the properties experienced a relatively quick fill-up while others dragged on and on. With an average of a $4 million investment to open each property (and some as high as $12 million), there was no option for simply abandoning our effort when our business plans did not play out according to our projections. Rather, we had to continuously persist in finding solutions for those properties that were struggling.

At times it required a pricing change. Other times it required a new marketing strategy. Still other instances required changes in personnel. And seeking the wisdom and counsel of outsiders or counselors who approached solutions from a completely different vantage point played an important part as well.

At the end of the day though, it was critical to persist in our efforts. Failure was not an option. And with millions of dollars in negative cash flow annually, it was incumbent upon us to persist in finding the answers quickly.

persistanceSo what about you? Are you facing some continuous road blocks as you pursue your dream or tackle an objective you have for your business? If so, I’d encourage you to consider this quote from Matt Biondi, an eleven-time Olympic medalist and world record holder:

“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary success”.

Next time you are tempted to throw in the towel, remember that you may be on the verge of extraordinary success… and persistence can be your secret weapon and make all the difference.

Mark