Archive for July, 2010


Ready to Make Nice

Who taught you how to play nice? Was it your parents or your teachers? Did you read a book on manners? Did anyone teach you? John Wanamaker was known as “The Merchant Prince” because he was the prince of courtesy in his relationships with his customers.

John Wanamaker was a keen observer of human activity. He was a shy and awkward country boy. He would watch people and determined that if he ever owned a store, he would treat everyone as if they were special. The results speak for themselves. Wanamaker built a department store empire that people flocked to mainly because of the experience he provided for the customer.

I grew up with a father who had similar early experiences. He did not have the education, the family stability or the clothes that would allow him to fit in with other youths his age. He, too, became a keen observer. When you experience pain, it can manifest itself in two ways. It can fill you with a rage that you carry your whole life and reveals itself in your repeated desire to try and make others feel insecure to mask your own insecurity. The other route pain can take is to make you more empathic. You know what it feels like to be on the receiving end hence you make every effort to ensure everyone feels encompassed and accepted.

Smiling at and talking to people is so second nature to me it is more effortless than breathing.  And I erroneously just assumed everyone knew how to do this. It wasn’t until years later when my mother commented on my actions and said that no one had ever taught her how to make friends. She told me she was so painfully shy as a youth she would eat her lunch in the girls’ restroom so she wouldn’t have to interact with others. I was shocked, but her confession brought home a very important point.

There are many folks who have never had anyone actually teach them how to be nice to people. I can remember reading Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, marveling somewhat at the beautiful simplicity of his words. I kept thinking, “Doesn’t everyone know this?”, and soon began to understand that unless you are taught it, you don’t. I had taken for granted the teachings of my father and have only come to realize at this stage in my life that it was probably one of the greatest things he taught me.

So think about it. This does not hinge on whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. Learning to behave nicely to people is a trait to be learned just like any other. And it takes work to make it a habit, just like every other task. Trust me, although it is second nature to me, it does take work and you are never too old to learn it or improve upon it!

As Addison Walker so aptly stated, “It is not true that nice guys finish last. Nice guys are winners before the game even starts.”


The Summer of My Discontent

I moved back home one year ago to oversee the family business. Stepping into the role of President, daughter, sister, and child of a legend has been both exhilarating and petrifying. The first year consisted of getting into the ledgers, understanding who does what and how to best change the world one book at a time. I’ve hired various folks to help us craft our brand and market our image. After all before I can get folks to come, I’ve got to clearly identify what we are and what we stand for. Max DePree said, “Management has a lot to do with answers. Leadership is a function of questions. And the first question for a leader always is: ‘Who do we intend to be?’ Not ‘What are we going to do?’ but ‘Who do we intend to be?'”

Our business has a unique purpose. In addition to publishing and promoting the most amazing leadership, inspirational and motivational material, we also sell it at the lowest cost on the planet. We had a year of very modest growth and were able to give $100k to our foundation in its first year. I’m told to be happy that we had any growth at all due to the economy. I consider this comment to be a cop out and it makes me discontented because my goal is to give ten times as much to those who need it.

So after this year of courting and publishing new authors, moving into the realm of social media and developing greater brand awareness, my discontent becomes more palpable every day. And I am glad. Being discontent means I am not happy with the status quo. There have been many times in my life where I’ve struggled with a decision. My course of action has been to work as hard as I am in my current situation until I wake up and clearly see the course of action I should take.  Sometimes this takes years but as they say, “when you’re going through hell, keep going!” It doesn’t mean that I am unhappy. It means that I am restless because I know there is something more out there. My Dad used to call this state “happy miserable” which was a good place to be since you know why you were miserable and could therefore do something about it.

So here I am after my first year home and as a fully fledged entrepreneur. It’s been an amazing learning process regarding things that have worked and things that haven’t. But the one thing all these successes and failures make me is restless. Knowledge makes you yearn for movement, to move one step closer on the map to your destination, to click in one more level of clarity on your site glass as your vision becomes clearer. Seeing the goal more clearly makes me discontent with anything in my circle that doesn’t fully support my mission.

So here’s to a long, hot summer of discontent. May it bring about the seasons of change needed to accomplish our ultimate goals.


Communication is Tremendous!

Communication is the greatest gift we have. It’s the cornerstone to defining a great leader. You can’t be a leader if you are unable to communicate effectively. I grew up listening to the greatest speakers of our times. Listening to them and thinking with them was the defining influence in my life. Demosthenes once said, “As a vessel is known by the sound, whether it be cracked or not; so men are proved by their speeches whether they be wise or foolish.” This is not only for professional speakers. We communicate in various speeches hundreds of time everyday across a wide variety of audiences.

My father used to repeat a communication story in his speech, The Price of Leadership.  It was the story of the young minister preparing to give his first sermon. He could see so clearly everyone’s sins, everyone’s mistakes, and he knew how simple it would be to set them all straight once he got to the pulpit. He could hardly wait for the big day when he could lower the boom on the congregation. Finally, the day came; he rose for the great occasion, strode down the aisle with great dignity and purpose, ascended the altar and head held high, and began preaching the greatest sermon the congregation would ever hear! But after a few minutes, he realized he was in trouble. He began to sense that maybe he wasn’t the hope of the world. After a few more minutes, he began to wish he’d never hear do preaching, and that there was a trap door behind the pulpit he could slip through and duck out of sight. After five minutes, which felt like five hours, he said a hasty benediction. With his head hung, he sulked from the pulpit, discouraged, broken and beaten. As he walked to the rear, an old white haired war-horse slipped his arm across the boy’s shoulders and said, “Son, IF YOU’D HAVE GONE UP LIKE YOU CAME DOWN, YOU COULD HAVE COME DOWN LIKE YOU WENT UP!”

Effective communication is not reserved for those with the right personality, title or endowment; although these things can certainly influence a person’s communication skills. Rather, it is about knowing your audience, being humble in your approach and possessing just a little bit a fear that you will make the most of this interaction. Preparation ensures you maximize the relevance of your message to your audience, as well as decrease the amount of butterflies in the stomach. The more practiced the message and the more real it is to your personal experience, the more you can focus on assessing how your words are impacting your audience.

My father used to also tell me that all communications problems are not about words spoken from mouth to ear; but rather the communication line that goes from the head to the heart. If you don’t have good inner dialogue, your outer dialogue is going to stink. So before a word comes out of your mouth, make sure of its source. Is it streaming from anger, superiority or indignation? Or is its source to clarify, edify and improve? Once you’ve taped into the real source of your spoken words you’ll be able to enjoy the tremendous power of your personal communication!


It’s Not the Glass Ceiling, It’s the Jackass Ceiling

As a woman in the workplace, I cringe every time someone uses the term “woman in the workplace”. Having traveled with my father since I was a toddler, and having been exposed to thousands of meetings, I was truly gender blind. I had heard about this mythical glass ceiling but had never actually considered its reality. Alex Thien said, “The only real drawback to being a woman in the business world is that you have to deal with men.” Now before I’m accused of being a man basher, I would clarify and say that the only real drawback to being a woman in business is that you have to deal with jackasses. But I would argue that a man would say the same thing. Plus, I’ve had plenty of women react in a “jackass” manner to me. So my personal experience has shown me that both genders are capable of behaving in such a unsavory fashion.

After seeing several of these creatures kick up their heels and stomp around breathing fire from their snouts throughout the decades, I discovered a pattern to when the jackass would stomp onto the scene. Without fail, it was whenever I need to make an ethical decision. It seemed this would set off their baying and kicking. In one instance, it was disciplining individuals for looking at porn on work computers; in another, it was moving to terminate an employee because they were threatening team members in their workplace; in yet another, it was removing an employee for performance issues.  I’ve also had jackasses kick dirt in my face and flay their hooves at me for paying and promoting people fairly, insisting we follow our human resources handbook in dealing with personnel discipline issues and removing non performers in order to maximize productivity and profitability.

Maybe I’m naïve, but I do think if a man tried to do the same things he would also incur the wrath of the jackass. So I didn’t butt my head up against a glass ceiling, I came face to face with the foul smelling spewing of a rabid jackass up the chain. But it wasn’t all bad. These jackasses showed me that I was operating in a barnyard that did not care about ethics. And that’s no barnyard I wanted to build my stall in. James MacGregor Burns said, “Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere techniques.”  And I wanted to be a leader, not a manager or politician.

So consider this: when ceilings or jackasses happen to good people, be glad it did so you can see the reality of what you are dealing with and move onto a place that’s better suited for your standards. As Ethel Watts Munford so aptly stated; “You may lead an ass to knowledge, but you can’t make him think.”


Obedience is Bliss

They say ignorance is bliss, but I never really bought into this. Ignorance of the law is no excuse so how can living life blindly be an option? Ignorance can cost you your life, your job, your health, or your dreams. There is a time, however, to be blissfully unconcerned with how every detail is going to work out; and that is when you are obedient in moving towards a new possibility. It’s also been referred to as walking by faith.

I recently relocated from the Midwest back to my hometown in south central PA. This meant changing jobs, friends and houses. While I was accustomed to restarts in my life throughout my time in the military, this one was particularly hard on my personal, professional, and financial connections. I had to let go of what I was so happy with in exchange for the next path. It wasn’t easy. Like most people, I dread letting go of what I have. I have read many books and used “mind tricks” to psych myself into the belief that what I will receive will be better than what I currently have. Every day I repeated Mother Theresa’s quote, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much,” hoping this would flood me with peace about the upcoming uncertainty.

I recently read a quote that created a permanent image in my mind. It said, “When God takes something from your grasp, He’s not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better”. So now I envision myself with a crumpled up five dollar bill in my hand. I hold it tightly because if I open up my hand it might go away leaving me with nothing. But what if I knew that if I relinquished my grip and let the five dollars go, I would be given a million dollar bill? The trick is, I will never know what I will receive until I let go of what I have.

Although there are no guarantees in life I can share one thing that I have seen repeatedly. When you are obedient in following what your true purpose in life is, you will receive a blessing much greater than what you currently have.  I was recently at a fund raiser for Lancaster Bible College. Author Bruce Wilkinson was presenting the keynote speech about giving. As he was challenging each of us about what we would give up for the greater good, I got a text from my real estate agent about my house that had been on the market for a year. I had very mixed emotions about this. I loved that house physically and I loved the surrounding neighborhood. It was my Shangri La to get away and visit even if it was only for a weekend a month. The problem was that this was a tie to my past and I could not be fully invested in my future unless I let it go. It was time and money away from what I should be focused on.

Since this text came at a direct point in Bruce’s speech I knew I was having a divine moment. Some may call it a coincidence, but as they say, “Coincidences are God’s way of staying anonymous.” As I closed on the house and traveled back to PA I got a call from my new real estate agent about a house that had been under contract but fell through. When I saw it, I knew what was going on. It was so magnificent that the past, and what was lost or given up, was no longer something to literally cry over. All my previous jobs, homes, and experiences fed together into one magnificent path that I now call my present and future. Rather than looking at each of them independently, I now relish the fact that they are all still a very real part of me.

It is truly amazing what you can receive when you are willing to finally loosen your present grip and open your hands, mind and heart to the future. Obedience truly is bliss!

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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July 2010

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