Archive for June, 2010


Guaranteed ROI

When my father passed in 2008, he left my Mother well cared for and a business that supported a Foundation of scholarships for schools, homeless shelters and missions groups.  He left us with no debt and the tremendous opportunity to generate money for those who need it. He did not leave money to his children, which was a wise decision. What kind of return on investment (ROI) would he get giving it to people with whom he had worked to instill the importance of earning your own money and giving as much as possible back to those who need it? That would not have made sense.

Everything I give, every cent, every smile, every word, every opportunity, no matter how great or small, is credited “to my account”. That means that all the good and hope and love that is linked back to my contribution is credited to me. Talk about a return on investment! As a child I can remember putting loose change and sometimes a dollar bill in the plates passed when missionaries would speak at our church. As an adult, it seems silly how something so small could make a difference. That dollar may be the one that enables financing to commence on a new university; that smile may stop a person from jumping off a bridge, that one word may be what a child needs to really convince them of their supreme self worth.

When I deposit money into my retirement accounts, there is no guarantee that it will be worth anything in the future. I can remember listening to the financial analysts state how amazing it would be if the DOW hit 2000 by the year 2000. What’s amazing is that here we are a decade later basically at the same point! So now I have a different attitude towards my investment strategy. I give as much of it away as I can versus saving as much as I can. Every great act or influence that my dollars are involved in is credited to my account with a guaranteed ROI.

Robert Townsend said, “A leader is a person with a magnet in his heart and a compass in his head.”  I love making profits, I love helping others, but I most love directing my profits to the aid of those who will get me a return on investment a million times over.  It’s the most powerful and lasting investment a business can make. Our first fiscal year we were able to give $100,000 to the Books for Tremendous Living Foundation thanks to our supporters all over the world who feel the exact same way we do. Henry Ford put it best: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” And on this Fourth of July week, we celebrate our return on investment in helping others achieve their own prosperity and independence!


How to REALLY win friends and influence people….and grow your business

We’ve been told to always have an agenda when you occupy someone’s time. But what would our interactions be like if we just went to have a cup of coffee, or participate in a mastermind session, or attend a business luncheon and we had NO agenda. Call me naïve’ but I assume if someone calls me up and wants to meet, it’s to hear about my business’ mission, not what I can do for them. After all, why would you call me up to take an hour or two of my time when your sole purpose was what I could do for you? What if someone wanted to spend time with me, and actually wanted nothing from me, other than find out what they could do to help me? Do you know what I would do for that person? Everything! It’s the old adage, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. I don’t want what anyone’s selling, but if I like you and feel like you are an honest person, I will do better than buy from you. I will advocate for you!

There have been people who have come into my life who wanted nothing other than to offer me support and serve in whatever capacity I needed. Many times I wouldn’t have even known enough about what to ask them for, but just having them share with me was such a great comfort and lesson. And then there are others who come to do something for me, only if I do something for them. They align themselves with me not because they believe in me, but for what I can do for them. It’s a real sign of maturity and growth to be able to spot the difference. Now I’m all about networking and meeting folks who can help further my business but my advice is this: If you are meeting with someone, make it all about them. Ask them how things are going and what you can do for them. If they’re worth their salt, they’ll want to know more about the wonderful individual who’s sitting across from them and intently listening to their story. They’ll instinctively look for ways to compliment and assist you without you having to ask. And don’t try to sell them on anything other than the fact that you are a huge advocate and know they’ll succeed.

So check your emails and recall your most recent conversations with your most influential contacts, those you routinely network with, or someone you met on a referral. Is the only time you get in touch with people when you need something from them? If the answer is yes, it’s time to redirect your efforts to asking what you can do for them. It is such a hectic pace in today’s business environment across all fronts. We get inundated with emails, phone calls, tweets, Facebook wall posts, blogs, videos, samples, dinners, meetings, awards ceremonies, donation requests, golf sponsorships, etc, all our waking moments. So take some time and put the humanity back into growing your business. You and your network are all about people. As Dale Carnegie so eloquently said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” I would say the same is true about growing your business.


Are You Willing to Pay the Price of Leadership?

If I had a nickel for every word I’ve read, heard or spoken about Leadership I’d be retired many times over except for the fact that leaders never retire! So what is so hard about this topic that it is always at the forefront of talk radio, bestseller lists, and sermons? I think one of life’s greatest challenges, if not life’s greatest challenge, is how to quit acting and start being. There will come a time when we need to stop reading and talking about leadership and start being leaders.

Throughout my career I’ve been told to act like an officer, act like a manager, and act like I’m in charge.  Dress the part, walk the walk, talk the talk…quack like a duck. While these ancillary aspects have some value, they are not the price you must pay to start being a leader.

Leadership is that something bought with a price that can be paid for by anybody, anytime, anyplace. You are as much of a leader today as you are ever going to be because the price you are paying today is determining the kind of leader you are going to be tomorrow. 

So what you are doing at this very instant is determining what type of leader you will be tomorrow. And since you are reading a blog on leadership…TREMENDOUS!

There is something all of us are good at and, if we do it diligently, will lead at. We all have an obligation to lead at something. You do not need a title, endowment, or even personality to be a leader. You know what you need to be a leader? Simple: willingness; Willingness to do what others do not want to do because it is too hard, too scary, too unpopular, or too risky.

I asked my father what price he paid for leadership and he said, “Loneliness, weariness, abandonment and vision.” What?!? Maybe he misunderstood my question? I was thinking more along the lines of title, prestige, power, and salary!!

But he was right. While everyone encounters loneliness in their lives, he was talking about the loneliness you choose, the loneliness that comes to the person who says I’m going to do this.  I’m going to make my mark; I’m going to set the pace.  This is where I’m going to make my stand.  This is what I’m going to contribute. Regarding the price of Weariness, I had certainly experienced that firsthand. One of the greatest things in life to learn is that life isn’t for riding, life is for being on the way, and the person who is learning how to “get started getting started” has passed one of the great crossroads of his life.  I came to understand what he meant about Abandonment. An awful lot of time is wasted worrying about how to make the right decision that will never be made.  But you can learn how to get started getting started, make a decision and then go on making it right.  You made the decision, now make it yours!  And vision: Vision entails coordinating the talents of others and leading them towards a particular goal. This is the final price that a leader must pay to achieve their aspirations.

Leadership is not glamorous; it’s more like trench warfare. As you’ve seen, it carries a high price and most people you encounter along this path will not pat you on the back and salute you at each step of the way. In fact, the opposite will occur. But the process of honing and purifying your character and the multitude of lives you will touch in the process makes you wonder why everyone does not pay the price of leadership.

Are you willing to pay the price of leadership?


I’m On a Permanent Vacation!

I grew up with a father who rarely took a “traditional” vacation. He had such a burning desire to do what he was doing that to stop doing it for even a day would have killed him! Our summer “vacations” consisted of being packed up in varying sizes of RVs full of luggage, numerous siblings, two adults, and many cases of books, to crisscross the country enroute to his next meeting. We’d pull into the next destination where he’d speak and we’d go splash around the campground pool. We once drove from Mechanicsburg, PA to Mexico City and back in a VW pop-up camper without air conditioning and lived to tell about it!

As a college student, I can recall friends informing me that my father was on campus speaking to a particular group. It’d be the first I’d hear about it but he would always meet up with me and we’d catch up over dinner. It was how he did business and was perfectly acceptable since he loved to work as much as he loved my mother and his children. So I learned the fine art of blending work and play very early on. I’m all for getting away. I love to travel and have lived all over the world. But I, like my father, traveled primarily for work, and seeing all the amazing things surrounding me was a byproduct of amazing work opportunities. When people ask me what I do for fun I quote Noel Coward: “Work is more fun than fun.”  

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Even Club Med’s slogan agrees, “Vacation is a world where there are no locks on the doors or the mind or the body.” So that’s why my dad considered every day of work to be a vacation. Some of you may be thinking to yourself, “but you don’t know the job or line of work I’m in or the people I have to deal with!” Ah contraire, I’ve had bosses who threatened me, employees who slandered me, and customers who stiffed me at various stages throughout my career. But I always got great satisfaction from working. Even if I knew the results wouldn’t be appreciated, or even the credit given where due, I still did it. After all, circumstances are what they are; I was in charge of how I’d respond. As my dad used to say to me when I’d long for that better job, boss, title, or employees, “If you can’t be happy where you are, it’s a cinch you can’t be happy where you ain’t.”


I have met the enemy and it is me!

What if you had five dollars in your hand and somebody said they’d give you a thousand? Of course you’d gladly release your grasp of what you currently had in hand for something much greater. In nerd terms one of the properties of matter is that two solids cannot occupy the same space. In layman terms this means until we let go of what we currently have we can’t get something potentially greater. The problem is that either fear or laziness causes us to assume that if we let go of what we have what we receive may not be better and it may entail a lot more work. Many of us go through life holding on to what we have while expecting a much greater rate of return. I’ve held onto incompatible relationships, toxic employees and even hostile bosses because I’ve been afraid to open my hand and receive something different.

The universe has an interesting way of dealing with me when I get this way. It lets me stew in my misery, sometimes for years, before it presents a cataclysmic event whereby I must let go of the old. This often comes in the form of a betrayal or separation, and although it hurts me very deeply, I’m never surprised when it finally comes. The only anger I feel is at myself for being too lazy to get away from the situation before it took a bite out of my heart, soul, mind, bank account or reputation. T.S. Eliot put it best when he said, “If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, you must accept the terms life offers.”

I have met the enemy and it is me! The good news is that even though I was slow to let go of holding on to things such as jobs, people, and material things such as houses, I did get better letting go of the known for the greater unknown as the years progressed. Guess you could say that I built up my faith through experience. I knew that when I let go of something, I no longer feared crashing and burning. Instead, I know I’ll be catapulted to a much higher level, like a trapeze artist flying through the air. I stopped judging others and, most importantly, myself. I stopped asking why things weren’t as they should be and realized that the only thing I was going to change about a stale and detrimental situation was me!

I’m confident that I can change and consistently reinvent myself. I know that in listening to my inner voice and doing the right thing, greater opportunities come my way; greater than anything I could have anticipated or planned for. And even if they are just for a month or a year, they’ll function as stepping stones to the next gift I open myself up to receive.

Seriously, don’t be your own worst enemy.



What’s up with all the blaming going on? I’ve never seen so much of it in the media and in the offices of those we elected as I do now. I know, I know, Hubert H. Humphrey once said, “To err is human. To blame it on someone else is politics”, but this is embarrassing! While we may chuckle at the former VP’s quip, I fail to see the humor anymore (and I have an amazing sense of humor). I am a product of my spiritual, familial and professional experience, so my disdain for what’s being broadcast by our leaders should come as no surprise.

In the early years of Sunday school, I learned about the epitome of a role model for accepting responsibility: Jesus. He could have blamed everyone, including his Father, for tasking him with being sacrificed for sins when he was in fact sinless. As a teenager and young adult, when I tried to weasel out of accountability for a failure or mistake my father would tell me, “No one is a failure until they blame somebody else.” And there was no way I wanted to be a failure! Fast-forward to my years as a cadet at the Air Force Academy. When asked a question we could give one of five answers: “Yes, sir; No, sir; Sir, I do not know; Sir, I will find out; and No excuse sir!” Did you hear that? “No excuse, sir!!”

I know what they say about politics. My father also used to say that the meaning of the word politics stems from the Greek word “poli”, which means many, and “tics”, which means bloodsuckers. The only issue is that one of the politicians occupies the role of Commander in Chief! So like it or not, and all sarcasm aside, they have got to emulate the sense of responsibility instilled in those they direct. And I’m not trying to be partisan here, it doesn’t matter what flavor you are, it is about the position, not your party. I once heard it asked, “If you blame others for your failures, do you credit them with your successes?”

There’s a story I was told many years ago and have never forgotten. A man is selected for a position and goes in to the office of the individual he’s replacing. The incumbent gives him the following advice: “I’ve written two letters which I’ve placed in the top desk drawer. After the first six months, when people are upset over how things are going, open the desk drawer, take out the first letter, read it and do what it says. After the second six months, when folks are even angrier over how things are going, open the desk drawer and take out the second letter read it and do what it says.”

Six months into his job, people got angry. The newcomer went to the desk drawer and opened the first letter. It said, “Blame everything on your predecessor.” The new leader did just this and it seemed to appease the crowds. Six months later, however, the new leader found himself again faced with even greater anger and hostility. He went to the desk drawer and opened up the second letter. It said, “Sit down and write two letters.”

You may use the “I inherited a big load of crap” excuse once, although I would highly recommend you never, ever use this as a leader, even if it’s true. It only weakens your reputation. People know when stuff is messed up. That’s why you got the job!! To fix it!! Second, people crave decisive and accountable leaders. Blaming is embarrassing. I once left a position because, unbeknownst to me, there was unprofessional behavior on the part of one of my managers. When this came to light, did I tell corporate that I didn’t know about it and therefore couldn’t be held accountable? No way!! I was angry at myself that I didn’t know about it, because it was my job to hire great folks at every level to ensure managers were managing properly.

So I’ll sum it all up in a nice little package: If you take the position, the title, the power, the prestige, and the salary then you have to take full responsibility for the position! And that means that everything, to include things that were in motion before you got into the seat, and things you didn’t even know were and are going on, are yours and yours alone.


Man, You’re Really Buggin’ Me!!

I listened to an interesting and timely sermon this past Sunday that revolved around enjoying the people in your life. Oy Vey! It started with a quote from leadership guru Peter Drucker, who said that the number one characteristic of CEOs, of leaders, is that they enjoy other people. This immediately made me laugh because I can clearly remember my father stating that anyone who says they love working with people is an idiot, a liar, or someone who didn’t work with the “types” of people he did! But I understood the point.

 Let’s just say I’ve struggled with patience in developing people my whole career. I still do. I even got counseled in the military for making decisions too quickly for people to follow. Can you believe it!?! Now couple this with the fact that several of my employees are also family members. Double jeopardy!! But when we become impatient, we are really reflecting our failure as a leader. Are we confident that the work we started in our team members, managers, and individual contributors will come to a fulfilling finish? Are we not, ourselves, an endless work in progress?

I am a business person through and through. I was trained in the military and top Fortune 500 companies. But I’ve consistently come to the realization that if the people I’ve been entrusted to lead, coach, discipline and encourage are not on my heart, they will get on my nerves. That’s the root of why marriages fail so frequently. One, or both, members look at the other with their heads and call out all the ways the other person irritates and falls short of meeting their standards. Surely they deserve better! They stopped looking at each other with their hearts.

It’s tough striking this balance, especially in business. It’s one thing when you’ve made a pact before God and witnesses to stay together ‘til death do you part. It’s another when you’re dealing with getting the right people in place who will ensure you at least meet your monthly revenue targets. But if there is one piece of advice I can give leaders it would be this: anytime someone is getting on your nerves, or doing something you do not agree with, or not meeting their goals, sit them down yourself and find out if they are aware of the situation and hear what they have to say about it. You will be surprised at what is really at the root of the behavior and I guarantee that whatever the outcome, you will sleep well at night knowing you did everything you could as a leader to remedy the situation.

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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June 2010

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