The whirlwind of activity that started last June came to a screeching halt after my last visit to NIH in April. They did a series of blood tests and scans which showed that the cancer cells were inactive and the lesions on my pelvis had not grown. So, no more flights to DCA every three weeks, no more chemotherapy and the dreaded side-effects and, more importantly, no more baldy! My energy is returning and although my head still gets a little cloudy, for the most part, I’m feeling pretty good. The “wait and pray mode” I’m now in has provided me with an opportunity to ponder the lessons I’ve learned and to recognize the path that God has laid out for me. I think most people set out wanting to live a life of significance. The first half of my adulthood didn’t start out so great. As with many young people, I experienced a series of bumps, twists, and turns as I learned to navigate life. This is where I learned the lesson of perseverance.
I believe that regardless of what comes our way, whether good or bad, it can be a positive experience as long as we learn something. For example, my dad and I started an auto parts store back in 1984. Dad put up the money and I ran the store. At 29 I didn’t have the experience nor the maturity to operate my own business and after five years we had to close the doors. The things that I learned during those five years, although painful at the time, would be invaluable later in my career.
Many years ago, a friend gave me a poster of a rodeo cowboy being thrown from his horse. Beneath the photo of the cowboy about to hit the ground was a quote from Henry Ford that read “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently“. For many years that poster hung in my office and during the ups and downs of my career it reminded me that as long as I got back up and didn’t waste what I had learned, nothing could stop me.
James 1:2 is one of my favorite verses. It says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance”. The hard part for most of us is to appreciate the things that challenge us physically and emotionally. It’s just not normal! But if we trust God and have faith in His plans for us, there is no limit to what we can accomplish! All it takes is the right attitude.
If you ask my son Andrew what the number one lesson I drilled into his head growing up, he will answer “My attitude determines my altitude”. This is something I’ve said for years and it’s based on the Zig Ziegler quote “It is your attitude, more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude.”
On his website, Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes: “The latest research proves he (Zig) was right. In fact, attitude is a better predictor of success than IQ, grade point average, or almost any other factor you can think of. Dr. Martin Seligman proved that in his monumental, ground-breaking book, Learned Optimism. He found that negative people get sick more often, are divorced more frequently, and raise kids who get in more trouble. Dr. Seligman even found that negative people make less money. In one long-term study of 1500 people, group A or 83% of the people took their particular jobs because they believed they could make lots of money. Only 17% of them — or group B — took their jobs because they happened to love their jobs.” READ ENTIRE ARTICLE
For the better part of my career, my job was to recruit and train sales representatives and the number one thing I looked for in a new agent was a positive attitude. I was always amazed how the people I thought would be the least successful did well and those who “looked” like winners failed. Regardless of one’s image, intelligence and ability, those with an optimistic point-of-view always did better than those whose outlook was negative. Contrary to what you might think, attitude is a choice. I’ve had people tell me “I can’t change the way I feel” but what they’re really saying is “I don’t want to change the way I think“. Maintaining a positive attitude is possible but it takes work.
Living a life of significance takes hard work. No one is going to hire you, let alone keep you if you can’t produce results. Furthermore, it takes work to find a good job. You have a better chance of finding a Chick Fil A open on a Sunday as you will a prospective employee who will show up at your doorstep! My dad used to tell me over and over to “Be the first employee to show up, be the last one to leave and give an honest days work”. When I would train new agents, one of the things I’d tell them is “If you want to make $100 per hour, you need to work like you’re making $100 per hour“. Whether you’re making $10 an hour or $20 an hour you need to work just as hard because it’s almost impossible to get raises and promotions when you’re only doing a mediocre job! According to Proverbs 14:23 “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
Your work ethic doesn’t apply just to careers. Relationships require work if they are to survive as well. I read a quote by H. Jackson Brown Jr. that says “Remember that creating a successful marriage is like farming: you have to start over again every morning.” I can’t think of harder work than operating a farm! Mary and I will celebrate our 22nd year of marriage this coming September. Like most marriages, we’ve had our ups and downs but I wouldn’t change a thing. We started with a strong commitment to God and to each other. Over time, we became life partners, sharing the load of running a business and maintaining a household. Our late, great friend Steve Oniki taught us the Platinum Rule “Treat others the way THEY want to be treated“. We have worked hard on our relationship and when things got tough, we persevered. We’re both retired now but that doesn’t mean we aren’t busy! We both serve in our church and love to travel. Spending time with friends and family is a priority and where we look for ways to have an impact.
The dictionary gives a definition of the word “impact” as “to influence”. I attended a class at the American College in Pennsylvania, to earn my Chartered Leadership Fellow designation in 2005 and have been a student of leadership ever since. John Maxwell is one of my favorite authors on the subject and he offers a succinct definition; “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less“. For the purposes of this section, I am using the words impact, influence and leadership interchangeably.
As a parent, I have strived to be a positive influence on our children, Andrew and Carla. In some small way, I believe I succeeded as they are both outstanding adults with amazing people skills. Whether I’m talking about the impact on family or friends or in the workplace, it must be a deliberate decision that requires time and dedication. You can’t expect to have an impact on anyone while laying on the couch watching reruns of “I Love Lucy”! In Phillipeans 2:4 the apostle Paul said: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” I believe that we can have the greatest impact on those around us when we care as much about their needs as ours.
You might think that developing leadership skills is not important to your current job or in your relationships but you’d be wrong. We have all influenced those around us without even thinking about it. There are thousands of books on leadership and hundreds of classes you could attend. There are many types of leader but most experts agree that servant leadership is one of the most effective. Jesus Christ is the best example of a servant leader that I know. In Matthew 20:26 Jesus said “But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant“. Over the years, I have been open to hearing from the Word of God and letting it define my life. The Bible has taught me how to be more like Jesus at home and in the workplace and how to live a life of significance.