It seems the popular thing to do these days is to declare oneself a conservative, at least, it appears that’s the aspiration of nearly every one of the Republican candidates for President. It’s also true that during nearly every Republican Congressional campaign, the candidates insist that they are the true conservative.
But is the Republican party overwhelmingly represented by conservatives, both in Congress and in those seeking the Presidency? Is it simply that easy: just assert one is a conservative and, voila, he or she is such?
Conservatism is not merely defined by one’s state of mind, feeling, belief or even a pronouncement. Rather, I would assert it is much more. Conservatism is ultimately defined by action which produces one’s track record.
Too often we see the electorate, politicians, and bureaucrats claiming conservatism. But is claiming such enough?
There is a verse that states, “by their fruits you shall know them.” There is not a more appropriate verse than this when discussing or wondering about a person’s true political convictions.
I am humored by the claims of so many Republican politicians that they are “dyed in the wool” conservatives. It’s almost as if it’s a badge of honor to claim such. But we can tell their true colors when it comes to the bills they champion (or fail to champion) and the votes they cast (or fail to cast).
The $1.1 trillion Omnibus spending bill that was voted on before Christmas is the most recent example of what conservatism is not. We should note that 150 Republican Congressman (including my own TN Congressman Chuck Fleischmann) banded together with 166 Democrats to fund this orgy of spending on nearly every conceivable program and agency across the entire range of the political spectrum. True there may have been some minor aspects of this 2,000-page bill that conservatives might have endorsed. But all in all, this was a horrendous bill that encapsulated all that is wrong with Washington.
There are plenty of articles from reputable sources that document the voluminous “sins” that are endorsed and funded by this latest fiasco so I will not take the time to reiterate them here. But suffice it to say that the December 2015 Omnibus bill is the poster child for all things progressive and the antithesis of all things conservative.
Following the vote by a majority of the Republican and Democrat delegations in both houses of Congress, Senator Ted Cruz from Texas criticized the legislation saying it “effectively forfeits our massive Republican victories of 2014 and cements Obama’s priorities for nearly the remainder of his term.”
Following years and years of manipulation, deception and double-speak, it’s time for ordinary Americans to move beyond the words of politicians and look only to their actions and track records. Conservatism is more than a word. Most importantly it is action. And the most revealing action a politician takes is his or her vote. Their vote affirms who they are and what they believe.
The Omnibus vote this month separated the wheat from the chaff. And sadly, if chaff is worthless, the Republican majority in both houses of Congress is the epitome of worthlessness, at least until a new crop of true conservatives is elected.
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?
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.
But 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.
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.
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.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I encourage all Americans to revisit the Thanksgiving Proclamation by George Washington in 1789. The truths penned by our first President in this document are timeless, particularly considering the condition in which we find ourselves in our nation today. I encourage us to read this Proclamation to our families and friends around the Thanksgiving table today and share a moment in prayer, using George Washington’s pattern of prayer below.
By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation.
WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
This week we’ll look at a few of the basic requirements or factors one should assess when determining whether to partner with someone. Following these factors will ensure the greatest probability of success.
We’ve already stated this but check and double check this area. Are your core values in sync? For sure no two people will ever align perfectly and to be honest, a partnership’s success is often found in the diversity of strengths that the two partners bring to the table. However, the core values of the partners must be compatible and in unison or it’s probable that the venture will fail, and perhaps even in a spectacular fashion.
Do you share the same goals for the partnership or venture? As oxen pull together beneath their yoke, likewise partners must have the same goals or their efforts will be marginalized and thwarted. Align your goals and your mutual efforts will be compounded and will achieve greater success than those you might realize through your individual efforts.
While partners will frequently not have an equal investment in their venture together, it’s critical that they both have some degree of risk. Consider a scenario where the first partner has significant risk, whether of his capital, reputation or even his time, while the second partner has little to no risk. In such an arrangement, it’s highly likely that the second partner will be tempted to not exert nearly the same level of commitment or concern for the success of the venture. And because of the lack of risk by one of the partners, sooner or later it will begin to strain the relationship and will negatively impact the results of the venture.
Walking in alignment
When one considers a team of oxen under a yoke, it is apparent that the two oxen are walking in unison and side by side. One doesn’t falter behind while the other surges ahead. Or one doesn’t go to the left and the other to the right. Likewise, for a partnership to succeed, the partners must agree on the strategies to achieve their goals. Setting goals is actually quite easy. Where the difficulty often lies is in the development of the strategies to reach the goals. Partners must be able to align their strategies and then work together, within their own individual strengths, to deploy the strategies that will allow them to reach their goals.
Past history is the best predictor of future results. This truth is one that can apply to so many different scenarios in life. However, when evaluating whether to partner with an individual, one’s track record is something that should always be factored in. Does the prospective partner have a track record of success with others or is he a loner? Does his past suggest that he has failed in other partnerships? If there are warning signals from his past don’t brush those aside. Evaluate them fully and carefully. They may be an indicator as to what may be in store for you.
Clearly, there are many other variables and factors that we might consider as we evaluate whether to align or partner with another individual. And to be sure there is no one size fits all list. However, I believe the above factors are some of the most critical ones that we must answer satisfactorily if we are to “walk together” and realize the success we all desire.
The alternative to a successful partnership is one that none of us want to experience. So, remember this truth as you determine whether to yoke yourself together with that prospective partner: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”
As you evaluate that next partnership opportunity, I trust these factors will serve to answer this question for you and either propel you to great success or spare you from potential failure.
In business, as well as in life, there are times when you and I are presented with the opportunity to partner or team up with another company or individual.
Generally on the front end of any such opportunity the positives nearly always seem to dominate our interest and they will often drown out any potential negatives or pitfalls. But as is the case in nearly all opportunities, it’s critical to weigh both the pros and cons.
There is an overriding principle that I have generally sought to follow when I find myself in this situation. When I have, it has consistently spared me a lot of heartache as well as significant dollars. The principle I am referring to is one I call the “Yoke” principle and it is cited in Scripture as “Don’t be unequally yoked…” There is another similar passage that states, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” The context of the first passage may deal with a spiritual truth but the general concept of both passages also applies in business as well as in most other areas of life.
As a reminder, a yoke is a device used to team up or connect two animals, often a couple of oxen to pull a plow. The idea is that by binding the two animals together via a yoke, it ensures that their effort is effective, efficient and productive. Without the yoke, it’s likely, if not certain, that the two animals will not walk, work or pull in unison.
In business, the Yoke principle is one of the most important concepts you and I will either validate and enjoy success or violate and reap heartache and financial loss. I know this from personal experience and have realized the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” when I either followed or ignored this truth.
The most obvious instance of my affirming the Yoke principle was when I teamed up in 1990 with my current business partner, Jerry Stout. It’s true that Jerry and I are polar opposites in some areas of our lives, personalities, and skills. But our worldview, core values, and overall goals have been compatible and in sync across these 25 years. This does not mean that there have not been times of great stress and even strong disagreement, but the common values we’ve shared have enabled us to work through the challenging times and enabled us to enjoy many successes together. Perhaps the greatest is the one I recounted in this previous post: The $100 Million Napkin
On the other end of the spectrum, though, I can recall an instance when Jerry and I ignored the Yoke principle when a particular opportunity presented itself back in the late ’90’s. We had been introduced to some businessmen in Las Vegas who presented us with one of those “too good to be true” opportunities. Even though the guys in Vegas did not share our values or business philosophy, we overlooked those facts and partnered up with them to acquire a couple of parcels of land and develop some properties in the Southwest. Sadly, that one relationship ultimately cost us many millions of dollars. And the main reason was because we were unequally yoked with guys we had no business in aligning with.
In my next blog post we’ll talk about some basic requirements to assess when deciding whether to align or partner with someone. We’ll also review some of the repercussion of ignoring the Yoke principle. But as we wrap up today, I encourage you to filter every new opportunity to partner or affiliate with someone through the grid of your own core values and worldview and stay true to those values, no matter what. You won’t be disappointed.
Recently I reread an ancient story about a very rich farmer. It seems he was so successful that he ran out of space to store his abundance. So his solution was to tear down his barns, build new ones, and hoard all of his crops and possessions for his own personal benefit. His self-absorbed mindset concluded that the obvious response to his success was to simply “eat, drink and be merry” and waste all he had been blessed with on himself.
Yesterday I read another business story in an article at Bloomberg.com entitled How Two Guys Lost God but Found $40 Million. This rags to riches story relays the experiences of a couple of Jewish guys, Abe Zeines and Meir Hurwitz, who found a way to prey on small businesses via a venture called “merchant cash advance. It’s a legal way to lend money to small businesses at interest rates higher than Mafia loan sharks once charged.”
The two partners ultimately sold their business for $100 million in early 2015 and walked away clearing $20 million each. With their new-found wealth, the two men bought a mansion in Puerto Rico, and the following excerpt from the article describes their current life: “golfing, gambling and picking up women…” Interestingly, though, the two acknowledge that “making some money hadn’t made (them) happy; it just made (them) want more.”
So if the above ventures were capitalistic in nature, why did the owners respond so selfishly? Perhaps these four truths about capitalism will shed some light:
Truth #1: Capitalism acts as a portal into one’s soul
While capitalism enabled Zeines and Hurwitz to achieve millionaire status, it also was the portal that revealed what was already deep within their souls. Capitalism and the success that can come with it will simply reveal the best and the worst of a man. If greed lurks within the recesses of a man, it will be amplified as the man’s business profits. On the flip side, though, if compassion, generosity and concern for one’s fellow man are values of the entrepreneur, those same qualities will flourish and gain significance as that man is blessed with material gain.
Truth #2: Capitalism requires one to focus on the needs of others
We should remember that capitalism is not about me, as in the business owner, but rather it’s about others. In the book, “Business Secrets from the Bible” Rabbi Daniel Lapin reveals a secret that validates this truth: “Focus on other people’s needs and desires and you will never, ever be short of what you yourself desire or need.” Lapin goes on to say that “there is only one way to make money (legally): finding out what other people want or need and then providing those things to as many of our fellow humans as possible.”
Capitalism enables us to serve the needs of others in the most effective and efficient manner. And the more people you serve, the more financially successful you will be (assuming the economics of your business are sound). Sadly, though, this truth does not guard against exploiters of capitalism.
Truth #3: Capitalism promotes the golden rule
A central core of Judeo-Christian values is the concept of the golden rule: Do unto other as you would have them do unto you. The clear teaching here is that we must treat others in the same manner we desire to be treated. This truth, while deeply engrained into our traditional Western values, is not universal as socialism and even some religions do not embrace this rule.
But capitalism at its core requires the golden rule for it to flourish and carry on. Consider that if a business owner mistreats his customers in a manner that he would reject if he were the customer, ultimately his customers will not return. While we can find examples of businesses who have obviously mistreated their customers, such as Zeines and Hurwitz did to their clients, in the long run, businesses or an entire industry like theirs will ultimately fail if they reject the golden rule.
Truth #4: Capitalism enables one to help another
If you’ve ever flown on an airline, you’ve no doubt heard the flight crew instruction prior to taking off informing passengers of what to do in the case of a loss of oxygen. Prior to helping others, including their young child, passengers are instructed to put on their own oxygen mask first and then help the child sitting beside them. The clear message is that one cannot help another if they are incapacitated themselves. Likewise, as we look around our community or world, we see many in dire need. However, before we can help those who are less fortunate, we must have the capacity to do so.
As entrepreneurs build and grow their enterprises with the right motives and a sound economic model, success is inevitable. And as that success begins to increase the owner’s resources, he is at an increased level of opportunity to reach out and help those in need beside him, or half way around the world. This is the beauty of capitalism: the entrepreneur meets the needs of his customers which in turn enables the owner to meet the needs of his family, his community, and his world. And this all occurs because of a voluntary economic exchange.
As we wrap up our discussion about capitalism, I trust that we will consider this sobering thought from Luke 12: “To whom much is given, much is required.” As individuals who have been blessed with the gift of capitalism, something that billions of people in our world do not possess, I trust that you and I will find ourselves faithful stewards of this great gift. May we continue to defend and pursue capitalism in a manner that acknowledges these four truths and preserves it for generations to come.