Archive for September, 2010


Nobody know the troubles I’ve seen…and nobody ever will

Jesus’ half brother James states in his book to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Why? Because it produces patience, makes you complete and perfect, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4) Isn’t that the end desire for all of us? To be patient, complete and lacking nothing? That’s exactly the type of material that we fervently publish and relentlessly read. Yet so much of our time is spent sharing with others all the wrong things that were done to us.

On the outside, you would consider me a very happy and successful person. Yet you won’t know the challenges and struggles that made me that way. You only see how I have chosen to deal with these situations. If challenges are opportunities, if the path to success is through failure, then why do we wallow in self pity? It takes maturity and accountability. There were times when I recounted my “poor me” situations for years to anyone who would listen.  What a terrible waste of time and energy.

At least half of the failures and heartaches I went through were due to my own lack of strength, discipline, or willingness to follow my conscience. The other half were situations meant to teach me some vital lessons about life here on earth.  As Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say, “Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so that you can be all that you were intended to be.” And yes, even things that go wrong are due to my own shortcomings.

I embrace my battle scars because I know sometime in the future, I’m going to cross paths with someone going through the exact same thing and I just might be able to impart some compassion or insights to them. It’s not about me; it’s about using what I’ve been through to help others and for me to grow as an individual. No one is ever successful being a victim. But if you look at your trials as a godsend, I guarantee you sometime in the future you’ll be a positive impact to someone who desperately needs it, including yourself.

Until then, don’t broadcast your problems, don’t fire off an email to the entire company telling them how horrible they are when you quit, and don’t tell people how hard you’ve had it. Focus on what you’ve learned and how it’s positively impacted your life and you’ll be well on your way to a more patient and complete life that’s lacking nothing.


Here Comes the Mirror Man

All of us look in a mirror at least once or twice a day. We do this to ensure our appearance is presentable before we venture out to interact in public. Mirrors aren’t the only things that manifest our reality.  Children are an image of their parents. Gail Lumet Buckley said, “Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future. We make discoveries about ourselves.” Employees are a manifestation of their company.  Your friends are a rendition of you. Even pets are a reflection of their owners!

One of the greatest reflectors of all is a book. There is nothing quite so unassuming, so non-parochial, so neutral, as the written word. It is up to me to interpret and apply as I deem fit; to get as much out of it as I can, or to close its pages when it gets too personal. It’s tough to be objective about what is really in front of us when we look in the mirror. It’s also a real challenge to open our minds to the reality of words and what they mean for us.

We hear a lot of talk about vision. How is your vision when you look in the mirror? Do you see clearly what’s before you? Do you obsess that vision is really all about seeing things that others cannot and miss seeing things as they are?

My father used to tell me that if he could have one wish granted, he’d ask that I be permitted to see clearly, ten minutes a day. If that could be done, the world would beat a path to his door because even the saints have had to look through a glass darkly. One of the most exciting thoughts he ever shared with me is the discovery of what vision really is. It isn’t an unusual imagination or creativity reserved for the genius or the savant. No—as in all things, the best things are all at our feet, free and ready to be put to use. Vision is being able to see things as they are.

The next time you look in the mirror, or read a book, or have lunch with your family or friends, take the time to see what is really there.


Atmosphere Creator or Sucker?

My father, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, famously said, “Atmosphere doesn’t come out of thin air. Somebody has to create atmosphere!” Many of us drift through careers and relationships wondering how they are going to make us feel, as if we are at an oxygen bar sampling its wares. What we fail to understand is that we are the originators of the very thing we are looking for. If we want a better atmosphere at work, create it! If we want a more open and harmonious atmosphere in our homes, create it!

I used to do a little routine with my father growing up. He’d call me up on stage and ask me how I was doing, to which I’d declare, “Tremendous!” Then he’d ask me how things were going, to which I’d shake my head from side to side and explain, “I hope things don’t get any better!” To which he’d query “Why?”, and I would triumphantly shout, “Because I’m so tired of being happy… it’s wearing me out!!!”

Now there have been many times through my life when I have not felt tired of being happy. In fact, there are times when I felt I wasn’t sure if I could or wanted to go on living another day, that my heart was decimated because of some type of betrayal, and that everything I tried to do right was met with resistance and hostility. But the one thing I did was keep a smile on my face and behave as if I was, indeed, so tired of being happy it was wearing me out.

Some may say that’s just a lie I told myself to get through the day, a trick of the mind. I disagree. If you believe that adversity holds the seeds of greatness, then every day I felt I couldn’t go on meant that one day in the future I would achieve success greater than I ever dreamed.  I was being forged for hardness, strength, flexibility and balance. So why not be happy? Why not create an atmosphere of happiness around you for others to enjoy? It’s just a matter of time and the sooner you start creating it, the sooner you get to enjoy it!

I once got a job because the selection committee said they greatly admired my enthusiasm and energy. What they meant was they were confident that I would create the type of atmosphere their organization and people needed to succeed and thrive. So what are you waiting for? Do you know how much your employer or family is waiting for someone to breathe some new atmosphere into the workplace or personal relationship? Don’t be a sucker; be a creator!!


Should Leaders Have Expiration Dates?

During my years in the Air Force, the military made it a priority to keep its commanders moving in and out of various positions. The standard tour for a commander was two years after which you would move to a new assignment and the next officer would fill your shoes via a change of command ceremony. I came to love this infusion of learning from different leaders, developing camaraderie with different types of airmen, and accomplishing different missions. Upon assumption of command you knew you had a certain amount of time to accomplish various goals to include mentoring those under you and making recommendations for advancements.

I saw first-hand the benefits of “term limits” and carry my respect for them to this day. After I left the military and worked in various corporations and industries I always let my team know that I would be there for two to three years max. At that time, if I was leading correctly, it would be time for me to leave the nest and let the underlings spread their wings and fly.  Walter Lippmann said, “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” So you never really know how effective you are as a leader until you actually leave. Only then do you see your true legacy.

The goal of leaders is to advance people and grow independent thinkers and perpetual learners. What if your child stayed in middle school and never progressed to high school? You may say that not everyone wants to climb the ladder and this is most certainly true. But within every organization there is a group of folks willing and wanting to become all that you want to make them and more.

What makes a leader chose to stay in a seat for more years than they should? Is it money? Power? Title? Ego? The fear that someone will come in after them and do it better than they did? These are tough questions that the leader must ask themselves.  Isn’t it a bit selfish to not look at those you have the privilege of leading and not want some of them to taste the sweet success and bitter failures that have made you who you are?

Leadership is so glorified yet it is so tough…. the loneliness, the weariness, the abandonment, the vision. Yet these are the very steps to leading a supreme life. With leadership, it seems like once we get it we think that by letting it go, we’ll lose it. In fact, the exact opposite is true. As Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him….But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

Maybe it’s time for you to get out of the way so others know the victory of achievement.


The Paradox of Failure

I hate to fail as much as the next person. I struggle with remembering painful mistakes of my past yet I enjoy the wisdom I’ve gained from them. They say you should forget the experience but embrace the results. They also say success is the best trainer. Yet to get to any goal or epiphany you’ve got to cross the threshold of failure…repeatedly.

The only way a person really grows and gains wisdom is by failure. If you’re going to lead, you’re going to know what it is to fail.

You heard about the guy who asked the old timer, “How’d you get so successful?”  The elder said, “Good judgment.”  He said, “Well how’d you get that?” The old timer replied, “Experience.”  He said, “Well how’d you get that?” The elder answered, “Poor judgment.” Is there any other way?  No, there isn’t any other way.

            You may not always know the right decision to make, but you can know what doesn’t work by constantly taking action and making adjustments accordingly. People say they love a challenge, but what they are really after is the results. All challenge and no results makes you want to quit. And many times we stop short of our greatest accomplishments because we aren’t seeing the results we expected.

            I had a Chief in the Air Force who used to love to debate the relevance of “street smarts” versus “book smarts” and which was more critical to completing the mission. There is a great deal of knowledge that can and must be gained by reading and hearing about and studying the actions of others. Advanced degrees can also give the graduate enhanced writing and communication tools, vital requirements to success in any field.

            I intentionally took on many jobs in my career where the challenges were formidable. There were times when outside consultants were employed to help us meet a goal, solve a problem, or implement a new management strategy. There is a danger in this, however. The problem with someone who only has “book smarts” is that they may not have achieved the results you are ultimately after. Get input from people who have done what you want to do.  Talk things over with people who have paid the price your organization needs to pay. But do not listen to anyone who hasn’t done what you want to do or hasn’t paid the price you want to pay.

            Failure is intensely personal. You can look into someone’s eyes and hearts and see if they’ve achieved success the only way possible, by earning their “stripes”. My Dad used to say, “Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” I can’t think of a better explanation of the paradox of failure.

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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September 2010

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