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National Leader of the Month for January 2008

LuAn Mitchell

LuAn Mitchell

LeaderNetwork.org has provided two mediums for you to experience the leadership insights of National Leader of the Month LuAn Mitchell: read them below and listen to excerpts from a conversation on leadership between Brian McCormick and LuAn Mitchell. To listen to the podcast, copy and paste the following RSS link into your preferred podcast software: http://www.leadernetwork.org/leadership_podcast.rss. In order to begin playing the audio in a separate window, click here LuAn Mitchell audio to play part I, and click here LuAn Mitchell audio to play part II.

Honoring LuAn Mitchell

LuAn Mitchell, the National Leader of the Month for January 2008, says, "However many spins around the sun we all have, we’re doing it together." LuAn has embraced this encompassing notion of leadership and has practiced it in her many roles: corporate executive, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, author, philanthropist, and mother. Though the spins of her life have not all been smooth, she is an amazing example of what a positive mindset, courage, and perseverance make possible. LuAn's attitude, courage, and perseverance had already resulted in a fabulously successful personal and professional life, and she stood as a great example for those within her sphere of influence. Then, through her speaking and writing, LuAn's message and leadership became transcendent, reaching the masses. It is for this positive leadership and example that LuAn Mitchell is the National Leader of the Month for January 2008.

About LuAn Mitchell

Author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, philanthropist

Bio: has dual citizenship in the U.S.A. and Canada; born December 22, 1964; has four children; has a turtle named Spike; has four puppies: Naio, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever (named after a tree in Hawaii); Princess Grace, a poodle; JoJo, a toy poodle; and Rex, a Shiatsu

Favorite quote: “You are the same person today as you will be five years from now except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read” –Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, LuAn's great mentor and true life hero

Favorite book: The Bible. It has been read to me since I was a little girl, and it has instilled values and principles that I follow throughout my life. I now share its teachings with my own children; these teachings have overlap and application for all walks of life.

LuAn Mitchell and Leadership

Books recommended for aspiring leaders: (1) Think and Grow Rich, (2) Life Is Tremendous, (3) Love Is Letting Go of Fear, (4) Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Think and Grow Rich:

Think and Grow Rich by Dr. Napoleon Hill has been something I was actually brought up on. I’ve been very, very blessed in that my parents were strong advocates of motivational reading (and reading in general). My father was a high school teacher, and so we had a massive library… Dr. Napoleon Hill and Think and Grow Rich were main parts of [our library]. [Napoleon Hill] didn’t just talk specifically [about] greenbacks: he spoke to the value and the contribution that each of us make as individuals with our spins around the sun and our own ability to do good work in this life. It was really instilled in me to search out [personal growth] literature and to [adopt the ideas found in it]. In fact, there are a lot of biographies referred to in Think and Grow Rich; gentlemen like Abraham Lincoln and many more who grew to be stellar [are referenced]. [These people are] pillars [in the sense that they are] examples in my life who were introduced to me in a way that said, “You’re really going to be accountable, and one day you’re going to reap what you sow.” ...While some kids were [reading] stories like Cinderella, looking for prince charming, my father was reading me Think and Grow Rich. [The people in Think and Grow Rich] were the princes that I was introduced to as a little girl, and I’m eternally grateful. I’m holding Think and Grow Rich in my hands right now. I have the hardback copy which was gifted to me by a fine gentleman by the name of Don Green who is the director of the Napoleon Health Foundation. I’m eternally grateful because it’s not only physically beautiful, but the contents are beautiful as well. [Those contents] have served to really help mold me into a better person.

Life Is Tremendous:

The title [of this book] is really self explanatory. How many times have I said, “Oh, my gosh. This isn’t so great. This really sucks. How come this is happening? Woe is me!” Then a pity-party would ensue, and I would say, “What did I do to deserve this?” Sometimes I’d look at someone else, and I would say, “What in the heck did they do to deserve that? You know, there are a lot of schmucks who do nasty things, and they just get away with them.” Charlie “Tremendous” Jones has really taken it to a whole new level, and his book has helped me more than once. He says, “Life is tremendous.” Oswald Chambers--whose [excellent works were recommended to me by Charlie]--says, “None of this is intended for you at all,” so it’s given me a whole new perspective...

I’ve met a lot of people through Charlie’s books, both through introductions from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones and also through my own imagination and the ability that we have to learn from all of these leaders through their literature, through their great work, and through the direction that they give us because they are living, shining stars.

When I read Life Is Tremendous, I know it is authored by a gentleman who lives and practices what he preaches. I have seen it over and over. He is the kind of person I want to be: I admire the author in every word. He has a gift of making it pleasurable but also palatable because sometimes I haven’t been the brightest star in the sky. Every turn I’ve made, I sometimes look back and say, “What in the heck: Was that me?” Charlie says, “Listen here. None of this was intended for you at all. Look what I’ve done.” It makes me feel sometimes that I can get up and go on, and I can learn maybe from my mistakes as well. He steps up to the plate, and he hits a home run for me every round. I love that book.

Love Is Letting Go of Fear:

I have to tell you that letting go of fear has been a huge thing for me. It’s been an anchor on my leg. I was widowed quite young, and I was afraid to ever date. Naturally, my mother said, “LuAn you’re a young widow with three children, and you have to think about what’s going on with your life.” I remember saying to her, “Mother you were a widow yourself. What are telling me?”…One day, my mother and I sat down and we said, “What are you afraid of?” She said, “LuAn, I’m not afraid to go home or make my transition in this life, but I am kind of afraid sometimes that I wasn’t a good mom. Or, I’m looking back more than I used to and maybe I could have been a better wife, or maybe I could had that career that I always wanted, but I chose to be a home maker. All of these things are not regrets, but they’re fears.” I said, “What in the world would make you fear that?” At that point she was 70 years old, and she said, “I’m 70 and I look at my daughter, and I see the situation you’re in, and I am afraid that I didn’t instill in you to move ahead and not be so scared.” We both read that book together, so that is kind of a landmark book for me...My mother was a caregiver to my father who had Alzheimer’s disease, and my father had just passed away. It was something that my mother and I went through together: becoming widows. It’s something that a mother doesn’t dream of doing with her daughter…I envisioned [my mother] and I sitting together and reading to each other, and it was a very powerful breakthrough for us as two women. I got to know her on another level, and she got to know me. I think that’s lovely when we can read to each other and grow.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway:

Dr. Susan Jeffers, who suffered from breast cancer, wrote that book…She said that breast cancer was sort of like a pirate’s dream, sunken chest and all. I thought to myself: “For goodness sake: if a woman [enduring that affliction] can make someone smile, [that is phenomenal]. It is like Norman Vincent Peale and others have said: “Laughter is the best medicine.” That is what Dr. Jeffers’ book is all around. It’s about feeling fear and acknowledging it as something that we humans have. All of us are going to be afraid now and then. If we open a business, we might lose it all. If we go into a marriage, maybe it won’t work out. As we walk across the street, maybe we will get hit by a bus. Dr. Jeffers says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway. Know that God has a plan for each and every one of us and know that you are called to do great work in this life.” When it’s your turn at bat, go on up there: Don’t just start thinking, “What if I strike out? What if everyone laughs at me?” Go on up there and take a challenge: You have to take your gift to the world.

Our life, I believe, is God’s gift to us. What we do with our life is our gift back to God. That’s what Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway represents to me. [It is] particularly [apt when the message has been] authored by a woman who came through breast cancer and a double mastectomy. [It is amazing that Dr. Jeffers] turned her experience into something that she gave thanks for. She felt the fear but did it anyway. She is a living example for me to not be so scared and to go ahead and take my gift to the world. I believe that everyone should do that [with their gifts].

Current personal passion: Offering my hand to others so that we can lift each other to new heights, mentoring young entrepreneurs, children and college students around the world

Dream: To travel the entire world: with opportunities through media outlets and stepping foot on many lands, speaking truths and all-the-while joining hands with others in an effort to unite and grow powerfully the potential of each and every one and the unit together as one world!

Place in the world you most like to visit: Japan. Why Japan?

I was given an opportunity to turn around a bankrupt firm as a female in a male-dominated industry: the meat packing industry. I went into it, and a lot of people said, “Look at that little blond piece of fluff. What the heck is she going to do in there?” We had a slaughter house, and I walked in there with my three little kids (my little ducklings) behind me and I said, “You know, you all could look at me and judge me by what you see. But what you’re not seeing is the fact that I’m the ideal consumer. I’ve been cooking for a chronically-ill husband.” I had also been at home cooking for my kids and for myself, and I knew a little more around the grocery industry than maybe someone who stood in the food service. My late husband couldn’t have a lot of sodium, and there were no products [that we could find for him to eat]. [I could not cook] bacons and hams and some of the other things he would have enjoyed snacking on because the sodium count [was too high]. I said that we [needed to] do a private label, so I began doing that.

One of the first places I went to was one of the most unlikely candidates in the world for a young woman like myself to break into a market: Japan. Even though there is a lot of talk around the fact that they don’t view girls as important in the realm [of business], there are [fine gentleman in Japan]. When our company was able to sell in Japan and the Asian realm, it was really a massive boost for us in that turnaround that we had embarked upon. I have four children: two daughters and two sons; a girl at the top and a girl at the end; and, two boys at the middle. My youngest daughter--who was 15 at the time--said, “Mommy I would really like to go to Japan.” As parents we say things, and we don’t know our kids are really listening in the way they are. My kids had all heard me speak so highly of the Japanese and how they had come [to do business] with me since becoming a leading woman entrepreneur of the world…We decided, “Why don’t we make it a family trip and do Japan as a fun run as opposed to just being at the marketplace?”

What experiences have been vital to your development? great parents who instilled great work and family ethics

What have been the turning points in your life? a teenage pregnancy and being a young, broke widow with three small children; working with others to turn around a bankrupt company; seeing how teams of good people can masterfully achieve anything when they stay on purpose for doing good works

Who are some mentors that have positively impacted your life and leadership? Charlie Tremendous Jones: He is singularly the most courageous man I have ever known. Og Mandino: His teachings and wisdom have carried a place in my heart forever. Jesus Christ: He taught only LOVE; he deserves all of our LOVE back! Napoleon Hill: He is a great mentor to me as a show host and as a conveyor of messages; he succinctly packaged his messages from so many successful persons. He was a great marketer as well with his Think and Grow Rich ideals.

Advice to aspiring leaders: Stay the course! As Socrates said when the man asked him how to get to Mount Olympus: Just be sure every step you take is going in that direction, and you will get there! Can you expand upon that advice for aspiring leaders? As tough and strong as I can talk here today, I got to tell you, I had some sleepless nights over the first three months of me going into that company. So many people would say, “What is a young widow like her doing buying a bankrupt meat-packing firm and going in there thinking she’s going to turn it around?” A lot of people said, “Your [late husband] Fred wouldn’t want that for you and the kids. If you sell it right now, maybe you’ll get a little something and you could be safe. If you spiral it into the ground, and it goes bankrupt, what the heck does that prove? You’re going to do a disservice and dishonor to a lot of people.” There was a lot of stress going on in my heart and in my soul. Then my girlfriend Christie stepped up and said, “You know what? I have watched you over the years, and I’m really interested to see how you’ll do this. You are going to do it, and then you’re going to teach a lot of people. That’s where I want to be: right at the front of the line, and I want you to teach me, too.” When Christie said that to me, I was opening up one of my leadership books and reading. The quote that was in there was given by Socrates when a gentleman asked Socrates how to get to Mt. Olympus. Socrates’ response was this: “Just make sure every step you take is going in that direction, and one day you’ll get there.”

On a sleepless night, I’ll never forget when my ten-year-old son tapped me on the shoulder (we were all sleeping in the same bed for the first few months). It was maybe five in the morning, and he said, “Mommy can we pay the mortgage?” I knew we couldn’t, but I didn’t know we couldn’t because I thought of that reading that I had done that evening from Socrates, and I rolled over in bed, looked at him and said, “You know what Freddy? We can pay the mortgage.” He said, “We can Mommy?” I said, “Yes, we can pay the mortgage, and you go to sleep now son.” I thought, “If Socrates can say to that man (who’s on his way to Mt. Olympus) that he needs to set a goal and get set to go in that direction, then [we can achieve the goals that we have set].”…Every step I took was going to Mt. Olympus, and I said, “Fred, we can pay that mortgage,” and I’ll be doggone if we didn’t [pay that mortgage.] We sure as heck did. Every prayer I made thereafter was a prayer of thanks and gratitude. Every word I said was one of completion for a job well done. I never again doubted myself. I only read positive, I only believed positive, and I believed that a power much bigger than me already had the job done, so I was just a vessel. I was in line to be used by something much bigger than me to get the job done, and once I made that decision [on where we were going], we got the job done much quicker than anyone anticipated (including myself).

Your most admired leader: My late husband, Fred Mitchell. He is deceased now, but he was known as the “president with a heart” because he had a philosophy about his employees that they were always human beings first, and they worked at their respective jobs second. He was a great teacher with great integrity which he showed to both me and our children.

What would you consider to be some of the leadership highlights of your life? Turning around a bankrupt company in record time out of the “tank,” into a force to be reckoned with. Developing the world’s first robotic arm to be used in a meat-packing facility, which took people off line-jobs that were causing things like carpel tunnel syndrome. Sharing the robotic technology with the world, so that others could be helped and served by its implementation: not hoarding it only for myself.

What is your metaphor, story, or analogy for leadership? Live the life you love and love the life you live! Can you explain? So many times I’ve caught myself finger pointing in the past. I truly, truly make it a point to catch myself if I ever think I’m doing that again because when you point a finger at someone else, three more are pointing back at you. That’s the way we curl our hands. I like to look in the mirror; when I look in the mirror, I like to take responsibility for my actions. I like to be proud of my actions and I like to say that maybe I don’t know everything, but maybe, just maybe--as Charlie “Tremendous” Jones and some of the great teachers he has introduced me to have said--we can be humble enough to realize that all of this is not intended for us. [Rather], we can help others through being living examples and shining stars of what we know to be true. [We can be] speaking our truth and sharing it: not hoarding it.

When I say live the life you love, I want to give thanks to God for this gift of life. I never want to take it for granted. I want my children to give thanks for their lives. I want to be in a place where others who are around me say, “There is someone who understands that life is a gift.” There are a lot of people who would like to dress up and show up, but they can’t and I can. So when I wake up in the morning, I say, “Thank you God [for the gifts] that I can get out of bed this morning, that I can go take some gifts to the world, that I am a breathing, living example of your love.” I want to live the life I love, and that’s a life of gratitude. I want to love the life I live because I’m filled with gratitude…I don’t know that I am a super hero per se, but I have got to tell you something bigger than me is. I want to be able to be there and get in the line and say, “I want to be a vehicle to do good works and help others be inspired to do good works because we need each other.” There is no one-man band on this planet. We all need each other, and we need to know that we appreciate each other. Those of us who can wake up in the morning, dress up and show up need to get in line to do the best we can everyday.

Traits you consider most important in a leader: Integrity and compassion. Why integrity and compassion? …[Success is about a lot more than just one realm, such as] making a lot of money. To me, [success also revolves around] giving back by rolling up your shirt sleeves. [For example, we prepare] a family Christmas dinner every year, and we take it out…We do this every year as opposed to just dropping some money [off somewhere]. I’m not saying it is wrong [to donate money because it is a good thing if you can], but there’s more to this life. It’s called rolling up your shirt sleeves: You have got to get dirty every now and then…If you can bring love, show love, and be an example of love, [that is so important]…

There’s a professional football player, Roy Williams, who is a great fellow, and I had the great honor and privilege of key noting for a group he started called the Safety Net Foundation in Dallas, Texas. He helps single moms out there. I was there with those ladies, and he stuffed their Christmas stockings with my books. I was their key note speaker, and I cried my eyes out. This is a single, 25-year-young-old young man who’s going out on a limb to help single moms.

I think we need positive role models: particularly gentlemen. I think one of the most impressive things in this whole world is a good daddy. A good daddy and strong, solid parental leadership has been a foundation in my life. I want to pass that on, and I think that’s the bottom line of the whole gift of this life: to pass it on. Give back and roll your shirt sleeves up and get dirty. Don’t think you can’t because you don’t make as much money as your next-door neighbor. If anyone rewrote the [keep up with the] Joneses thing it would be Charlie “Tremendous” [Jones], wouldn’t it? [To me], “keeping up with the Joneses” has a whole new meaning now. It means living with integrity, living by design and doing good work as well as you can in this life. I want to do that.

What can organizations do to encourage or stifle leaders? To stifle: get self serving and self centered. Become a “big shot,” then forget the customer, forget the employee, and forget the purpose. To encourage: remain humble, remember the customer and their needs and expectations, remember the employee and their needs and expectations, and remember the purpose! Stay on purpose. Please explain. First of all, I think we have to look at the big picture in this life. One of the big picture [ideas] is not brand new, but it is a new perspective that has come forward: to act responsibly on behalf of mother earth. We are seeing a lot of corporations stepping up to the plate with [the environment]. Here in California, under the leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger, there are a lot of people who are stepping up to the plate: doing good things, shutting their lights off, getting lower wattage, car pooling, etc. [There is] carryover [of that goodwill in organizations. Many organizations are] acting with integrity, doing good business relations, doing good works for their employees by looking at corporate families like real families. Also, [many people are] taking a look at people whom they admire (like I have) through these books that I mentioned such as Think and Grow Rich, Life Is Tremendous, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and many, many other [noteworthy books]. [By reading these books], we’re able to say, “What could I embody from these leaders so that I can actually incorporate that into my life and become a leader in my own right?”…I like to think of it like this: my freedom ends where someone else’s nose begins (as long as they’re not harming this planet or harming a child or another person). If I can act to do good work, to grow wealth and grow inspiration, it’s not just around what I could buy with that. I own some pretty nice toys, but my life isn’t [defined] by the toys, and it isn’t denied as the result of toys. I don’t think anyone has to feel guilty [for having nice things], but I think we do need to do good work...

What and where are the best training programs that exist for leaders? Everywhere! That includes many free ones on the internet, as well as tele-seminars. People must become their own best friends and search out the ones that will serve them and their needs best. LeaderNetwork.org is a great example! What a marvelous resource: right here, right now!

When were the limits of your leadership challenged or tested? Constantly…We are all bombarded daily with opportunities to become less than we are capable of being, but the flip side is where we must stay! How do you respond to the challenges to your leadership? I catch myself: I look in the mirror, and I take responsibility. I realign with the right walk, so that I can again walk the talk of leadership principles and true success!

Can you talk a little bit about why it is that we are constantly given that opportunity to stumble, or what causes us to stumble? Do you have any other words of advice in addition to those you’ve shared already in terms of how we can continue to step up to the challenges [placed before us] successfully? First of all, I think we have to view challenges as opportunities. It all boils down for me into the perspective I make of what’s happening. If I look at something and it becomes insurmountable, there’s a theory [that I have]. I really subscribe to [the theory], and it goes like this. There is a gentleman in an art gallery, looking at the most magnificent painting the world has ever seen. It’s worth a fortune. While looking at this magnificent painting, he moves closer to it [to inspect it more closely], and then he puts his hand up and says, “There’s a little black speck right there. What’s a black speck doing up there?” He has lost sight of the [grand], magnificent beauty of the piece of art [and his wonderful opportunity to view it] because it has a little black speck on it. I like to take a look at issues or things that present themselves in my life as what I call the little black speck syndrome. Is the speck I am facing really that important? Is it really that big because I’m giving it credence [by focusing on it]. I need to step back sometimes and take a new vantage point: maybe even an aerial view periodically. It’s like standing at the base of a sky scraper. When you look up, you can get dizzy, and it can just look absolutely overwhelming. [Conversely], when you’re flying over a city, [that same skyscraper appears much different]. Yes, [the skyscraper] is big, but [when you are up in the sky] and look at it, you can see a lot more. I like to stop, step back, sometimes even take an aerial view and remember that guy in the museum who forgot to look at the magnificence of the painting. I don’t want to ever forget to look at the magnificence of my opportunities of this life. [I don’t want to forget] those good people who deserve credence and [deserve] to be celebrated because there’s some little speck (some little black dot) that’s preoccupying all my time.

That’s also, I believe, how we can manifest illness. I need to be healthy. Certainly, they say, “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” All of that comes down to this: “What is your attitude?” What are you doing? What are you appreciating, or what are you forgetting? I want to remember to stay humble but also to remember that I have a lot to give thanks for. I want gratitude to rule my day everyday.

How do you define good leadership? In other words, what does good leadership look like? It is a landscape. Sometimes it has a “rough terrain”; sometimes it is a large sea where one can go adrift, but it is always filled with beauty and adventure! I revel in the opportunity to travel the world of great leadership with others.

Can you talk about the important piece of advice that your mother gave you? I get emotional because there have been many [important pieces of advice from my mother]. When she used to say, “It’s a blessing in disguise,” she used to really get my goat. I used to get my feathers ruffled, and I would come to her, and I would want her to feel sorry for me and commiserate… I would say [something to her], and she’d stop me short, and she would say, “It’s a blessing in disguise, LuAn; it’s a blessing in disguise. You see, we need to learn not to look at people and judge them. Don’t look at me and judge me. I won’t look at you and judge you, but [learn what we can about each other, so] we can celebrate each other. It’s a blessing in disguise that people are different.”

Sometimes we look at different people that aren’t exactly like us, and we say, “Oh, I’ve got to fight that. I’ve got to convert that. I’ve got to change that. It’s my job to do something about that.” My mother really taught me a lot by saying, “It’s a blessing in disguise.” I really carried that with me throughout my life because there were things that I would look at that I would think were wrong with the world or wrong with the picture. Now, I have teenagers and it’s been said that sometimes it’s as tough to raise a teenager as it is to nail Jell-O to a tree. I’ve had to put my hammer down more than once. I’d say, “Okay, I’m not going to nail this Jell-O to a tree,” so I just [have to] give it up and my kids go, “Mom, remember” because my mother [gave the same advice] to them, too…

I remember [Mom’s advice] now, and it takes me back to Oswald Chambers when he said, “This is not intended for you at all.” Charlie “Tremendous” Jones says, “You know you’re the same person five years from now as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” I look at leaders whom I’ve admired and people who I’ve learned from, [and it makes me think of my father]. My father had Alzheimer’s disease. When I was in junior high, my dad didn’t know who I was, but he could still do complicated mathematical equations; [he was] a mathematical genius. I would think, “This isn’t fair; he’s such a good man, and I’m only in junior high. I want to have my dad.” I would feel cheated. I know there are a lot of people who feel cheated. I know when my husband died, and I was just in my early thirties, and I had three young kids, [I felt cheated]. There are a lot of widows and widowers out there who feel cheated. [I would think], “Why my husband? Of all the schmucks in the world, [why me]?”…It’s just dumb. It’s dumb. It’s a little black dot syndrome again, and I think of the wisdom of my mom when I got fired from my first job. I remember calling her in tears and saying, “Mom I worked so hard here. I have acted with integrity, and I’ve done so much. I can’t believe they called me in. They didn’t even have a reason. They just said, ‘We are just going to have to let you go.’” My mother said, “LuAn, it’s a blessing in disguise. How many times do I have to tell you?” I said, “Mom, you’re going to say that again? It drives me crazy.” Well, within a very short time I had a much better job. It led me to a whole new area of expertise. You know what? Every darn time [my mother] was right, and that used to get my goat, but now I surrender to that...It’s like Carol Burnett said, “I woke up one morning, and I put my arms in my sleeves and out came my mother’s hands.” I realized I was doing that with my kids, too, periodically, and then I thought, “Holy smokes. Some of those things I hated carry so much darn wisdom. I’m just grateful to know that maybe we’re not exactly alike, but it just might be a blessing in disguise every now and then. Don’t be so busy fighting and swimming against the stream. Every now and then it’s going to be fun to do like the surfers do and just catch a wave.

LuAn Mitchell's Story

We all have a story. What is yours? There is a poem entitled “Which Am I” by an unknown author that describes the difference between those who build and those who dismantle.

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave to and a hardy-o,
They swung a beam and the side wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
Like the ones you’d hire if you had to build”
He gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed
Common labor’s all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken a year to do.”

I thought to myself as I went my way
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I the builder who works with care
Measuring life with a rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well made plan
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I the wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

Which am I?
Which are you?

This poem is a poem I read after I sold my company, and I had a Christmas-party announcement. I had some of our retired folks, and I had our employees who had worked so diligently and so hard alongside of me [there]. Certainly, I did not turn the company around just by myself: there were a team of people. I read them that poem, and I really felt I wanted to be with them forever. I didn’t want to ever go, but I knew that the little role that I had in growing the company had been served. I secured [the company], and I knew I had grown to the level where I had met my goal. [That goal] was that someone would have to be a complete idiot to ever go in there to shut it down, or hurt those people, or hurt those jobs, or hurt the growth, or hurt the world at large…

I think that each and every one of us does not just wear several hats. We really have to keep it real within us. I said that earlier, and I’ll say it again: we have to celebrate each other. Like in that poem,…we have teams of people doing things. They’re either tearing down or they’re building, and we need to recognize, understand and celebrate all of those components that make the whole success. The leaders didn’t act all alone; they had people working with them. We need leaders, but we also need all the people who are working alongside: they are leaders in their own right. Everyone in our corporation was a leader with me, and I celebrate them. They brought me to be so much bigger, and I miss my corporate family a lot. From that particular corporation I’ve had to move on, and they are moving on. Now the company’s just ticking along, and it’s because all of us came together.

Listening to that poem I remember reading it. I remember the standing ovation after that, but it was a standing ovation I gave back to them as well. [To me, the poem] really celebrates the coming together of so many and the recognition of the roles that we play.

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