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13 Hours: Warriors Aren’t Trained to Retire

13 Hours: Warriors Aren’t Trained to Retire

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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

Finding Men to Match our Mountains

Finding Men to Match our Mountains

Finding-Men-to-Match-our-Mountains

In April 1967 one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, gave a speech to the California Republican Assembly just a few months after being elected Governor of California. At the time, his state was facing significant challenges and he had sought to attract men and women from the private sector to help in turning the state around. In his speech he recognized the fact that in order to achieve the successes he envisioned he would need to find “men to match our mountains.”

As I paused to ponder that statement, it became apparent that this is not only the challenge of our day, but it also represents the solution to any problems you and I are facing, whether in business, in our personal lives or in government.

Mountains come in all shapes and sizes. Some are relatively low in elevation and simple to climb. It takes very little effort or special training or knowledge to scale Lookout Mountain, which overlooks my home town of Chattanooga. But travel out West to Colorado and attempt to climb some of the peaks in the Rocky Mountains, and the story is much different.

A few years back my son and I hiked up Buffalo Mountain to an elevation of 12,777, a picturesque peak that overlooked our home below in Silverthorne, CO. The hike, while certainly not the most difficult Colorado has to offer, was nonetheless more strenuous than climbing Lookout Mountain back in Tennessee and required a higher degree of fitness.

Buffalo-Mountain-Collage

While I consider myself to be somewhat fit, there are other mountains I would love to climb, but they are mere dreams at this point. Consider our world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, at an elevation of 29,029 feet — nearly 2.5 times the height of Buffalo Mountain.

I have done some research about climbing our world’s highest peak and discovered that those who attempt to scale Everest prepare for several years prior to undertaking such a feat. One of the strategies deployed in preparing for the climb is not only to gain the counsel of experts but to also undertake a graduated program of scaling smaller mountains in the years leading up to Everest. This process of scaling smaller but increasingly larger mountains provides invaluable training, teaches critical skills, and offers the physical and mental strengthening that is required to ultimately scale the highest mountain in the world.

Just as mountains come in all sizes, so do problems and challenges. Whether in your marriage, business or our government, in order to tackle the mountains you are facing, it will require that the man is able to match the mountain.

While it’s likely most reading my thoughts here, have never scaled Mount Everest, I’m certain that many of us have faced our own Mount Everest in our personal, business or even spiritual lives. For many, their marital relationship may be their personal Everest. It may seem too difficult to scale or conquer. The very idea of beginning to solve the challenges one’s marriage poses seems as hopeless or overwhelming as confronting the real Mount Everest.

Or perhaps for you it’s the overwhelming challenges you are facing in your business, struggles that seem to hold no answer. No matter how hard you have tried, it seems that there is no way to scale and overcome the daunting task in front of you.

Given my passion for our nation, my mind also drifts to the challenges we are facing in America — difficulties that have been festering for decades and even growing to a point that scaling Mount Everest would seem to be a leisurely afternoon climb.

There’s a reason though that the struggles you and I are facing in our lives, whether interpersonal, business, spiritual or even our government, remain unsolved. I think Reagan had it right when he said we must find men to match our mountains. If there’s a mountain in your life, business or our nation that seems unscalable, I would assert that the problem is not the mountain but rather the man.

Find the right man, and you will scale the mountain. Or in your case and mine, develop the man within, and those seemingly insurmountable Everests in our lives will undoubtedly be conquered. Just as preparing to scale Everest involves an ongoing and rigorous strategy, likewise, if you want to overcome the mountains in your life, you must also develop a plan.

Find an “expert” to help you. Seek out someone who has what you want, whether it’s a successful marriage, business or spiritual life. If they’ve done it, they can help you to overcome the mountain in front of you. Call him a counselor, coach or mentor, but there’s no mistaking that the most successful people you know will credit others for their success.

Next, you must strengthen yourself mentally and spiritually. Someone who has never trained to climb a high mountain will find themselves woefully unprepared. Likewise, to tackle your struggles, begin to build yourself up. Read, read, and read some more. Find books that can help you strengthen yourself mentally. And be sure to get into God’s Word daily. There is no better discipline to strengthen oneself for whatever struggle you and I face than a daily regimen with God.

Finally, because we are broken people and we live in a broken world, setbacks are certain and will occur even as we progress in becoming the man to match the mountain. But as you and I remain committed to our growth plan and persevere regardless of the circumstances, we can be certain that the mountain you and I are facing today will be scaled tomorrow.

So, will you become the man to match the mountains in your life? Your marriage, your business and your nation are in dire need of such a man.

My prayer is that you and I will become such men.

Mark

Leaving a Legacy: The Day After

Leaving a Legacy: The Day After

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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

Thanksgiving… in George Washington’s Words

Thanksgiving… in George Washington’s Words

 

Thanksgiving in George Washington's Words (1)

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.”

GW_ThanksgivingProclamationNow, 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.

G. Washington.

 

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  

 

 

The Yoke Principle Part 2:  Five Factors to Consider when Forming a Partnership

The Yoke Principle Part 2: Five Factors to Consider when Forming a Partnership

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Last week I shared my initial thoughts on the “Yoke” Principle in The Yoke Principle Part 1: Ignore this Business Principle at Your Own Peril. In the post I stated that it’s critical that one’s worldview, core values, and general goals be compatible and in sync with an individual they intend to partner or team up with in a venture or relationship.

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.

Core Values

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.

Goals

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.

Risk

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.

Track record

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.

Mark

The Yoke Principle Part 1: Ignore this Business Principle at Your Own Peril

The Yoke Principle Part 1: Ignore this Business Principle at Your Own Peril

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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.

Mark