Archive for April, 2011


the judas principle

I was recently at a meeting where a member shared that a teammate had committed an act that was incongruent with what we stood for. The member was clearly shaken as he recounted the events that had transpired. How could one of us who had been so close have done something so at odds with what we stood for?

Being prepared for leadership doesn’t just involve talking about the upside. It’s easy to recount only our successes and accomplishments. It’s also about being aware of the dark side of what can happen to a leader, and the most damaging event is when one of your own turns against you.

A traitor is someone who starts to tear down something that he once was trying to build up. I have experienced this devastating event several times in my life. In some cases I wasn’t completely surprised. I chose to ignore the subtle symptoms and hope for the best. In others, I was caught completely off guard.

The higher you climb in your role as a leader, the greater the risk of this happening. It is imperative that you, as the leader, always maintain your position.  In the military we called it fraternization and there were clear rules against it. The troops don’t want you to be one of the boys, they want you to be the Officer in Charge. It’s tough, it’s even lonely, but it’s necessary. Whenever we get so close to subordinates that we treat them like surrogate siblings or friends, we lose our objectivity.

The other reason this happens to leaders is that they have something the traitor wants. And the traitor will work in a very supportive way until they gain access to the inner circle. They convince themselves all along that they are truly after what is best for the organization, but their hearts tell a different story.

It’s happened again and again throughout history. And unless you are surrounded by people with absolutely pure motives and hearts, which none of us are, it can happen to you. It’s just part of our human nature. Even the most righteous man is capable of evil acts.

So what do you do? Realize this is a fact of life. None of us is perfect and always pure in our motives. And realize that this is a part of life not designed to destroy you, but to make you wiser and stronger. Know those closest to you but keep a healthy professional distance, trust your instincts, and wear your scars with pride. Leadership is triumphant warfare. Don’t ever forget it.


what’s better than peace, love and understanding?

Why should we take on the challenge of excellence? Everyone knows how to do this—work hard, be accountable, be ethical, do the things that no one else wants to do—so why isn’t everyone performing to a level of excellence? Because they don’t know why they should perform at that level. When we understand this, then we are truly ready to pursue the rewards of excellence.

The first reward is autonomy! When you choose to live a life dedicated to the pursuit of excellence you get to be your own boss! Never mind what the board of directors says or human resources puts in your personnel file, never mind what the stock market tells you your retirement accounts are worth. You and you alone know what you are worth. And you are only evaluated on what is personally inside of you. It’s whatever you are willing to invest in and commit to and actually push yourself to be: the most excellent version of yourself. So no more complaining about the boss…the boss is you!

The second reward of excellence is contentedness. You are comfortable in your own skin. You don’t have to tune out or stress out; you are truly actualized with the progress you’ve made.  Albert Einstein once said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” In our quest for excellence, we know we’re going to be ridiculed, judged, and opposed in many hurtful ways. But that’s okay! It’s called growing pains. There is no growth without the pain. We wear our battle scars with pride because we know we are engaged in triumphant warfare! And we are content in the face of adversity because it’s all a natural and necessary part of separating from the pack. The reward of excellence is that you are content with all events that transpire and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The third reward of excellence is wisdom. My father told me that when we have a communication problem it isn’t between the mouth and the ear; it’s between the heart and the head. When you pursue and achieve excellence, you fail. That’s right; someone who’s successfully pursues excellence fails countless times by virtue of the number of challenges and risks undertaken. And those failures give us strength, experience, good judgment, empathy, compassion, and yes, wisdom. Jim Rohn once said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” We become effective communicators when we have walked a mile in others’ shoes.


just say no to the status quo

The Parable of Talents found in the book of Matthew, Chapter 25, is one of my favorite illustrations of conquering the fear that prevents us from achieving excellence. In the parable, a man gives each of his three servants a bag of property, some say it was gold. The number of bags given was based upon each of the servants’ ability. The owner then went on a journey and returned to see what his servants have done with what was entrusted to them.

 The first servant, who was given five bags, used his talents to gain five more. The second, who was given two bags, used his talents to also double the owner’s initial investment. The third was given one bag. He was afraid and hid his bag in the earth and returned it to the master crying, “See, you still have what is yours.” The owner cursed him as slothful, and even wicked, for not working with what he was given. The third servant’s rationale was, “I kept exactly what was given to me secure. Hence, there was no loss, so what’s the problem?”

This, “no harm, no foul” mentality gets us into trouble. The third servant didn’t fail because he did not multiply what was left in his care; he failed because he was too afraid to even try. The path to excellence is not measured in titles or cars or bottom lines or bags of money, but in our commitment to living life’s continuous journey to its fullest. And the last gentleman, unfortunately, chose to stay put.

The rewards reaped on the path to excellence are never found on the streets of status quo. And by the way, whenever you feel that you’ve done enough and it’s time to rest on your laurels for a bit, remember, there is no such thing as status quo. Time can never be recovered, inflation defeats the worth of currency, and most great opportunities only happen once. Nothing static retains its original value. Decay and depreciation is a fact of life as sure as death and taxes.

So if we’re not living the most excellent versions of ourselves, we know exactly whom to blame.


i was a charm school dropout

Once, without warning or explanation, my father took me and my little sister to a charm school where they try to teach normal girls to act like ladies. After training us to sit properly and to chew our gum without snapping it, we discovered that we’d be given the wondrous opportunity to participate in a fashion show at one of the local shopping malls.

This horrified us. The concept of strutting down a runway in front of our peers was unthinkable. We were tomboys through and through and there’s no way we would live long enough to earn back all of the “cool points” that we would lose on that single day. Faced with this looming crisis, my sister and I quickly devised a scheme whereby we would never have to return.

We successfully bid farewell to the charm school; but my father, never one to be outsmarted, decided henceforth he would blurt out to every single man I met, “Did she tell you she flunked out of charm school?!” This went on for decades (and ceased only upon his physical death!) and provided an endless source of amusement at our family table, church and business meetings. When I finally got up the nerve to ask my father why he signed us up for Charm School, he said that he thought we’d enjoy learning a bit of refinement and etiquette. So his motives were in the right place; however, he was a bit weak on his transparency. I will tell you this, however: had I been asked if I wanted to go to charm school I can tell you what the immediate response would have been!

My father was mischievous. While he insisted that he never directed what we did with our lives, he did confess to a great deal of psychological meddling. I remember times when we’d go to camp for a week and when it was time to leave he’d inform me that I was staying behind to work for the rest of the summer! I remember when he returned from New Mexico Military Institute after a leadership speech and strategically placed a brochure on the table stating that the kids who went there were really going to amount to something. I remember him telling me that if I could master the art of cold-call, door-to-door sales, anything in life would be a cinch.

In each instance, I took the bait. And boy was I glad I did. I learned to work hard during my summers; vacations are still a weird concept to me. I gained admittance to and graduated from a military academy, resulting in a wonderful opportunity to serve my country. I learned how to communicate with people within seconds and adeptly handle rejection. My father’s methods may sound unorthodox when you compare them to many contemporary parenting books, but I learned firsthand to land on my feet and shake off failure no matter what the situation.

 So here’s to the mischievous parent—may they continue to outwit children and youth for years to come!


when less really is more

Tax season is a formal record of my yearlong giving, whether it’s to the government or to more altruistic entities. It’s the time all Americans gather their receipts to assess what went where. It’s a snapshot of where our giving has gone. I am currently involved in two fund raising initiatives raising money to build facilities that will bring spiritual benefits to thousands of people for generations to come. During my training they covered the different ways of giving.

Legacy giving was one of them.  Our ears perk up when we hear that word: legacy. It signifies something bigger than any of us, something that has eternal value and has broken free of the bounds of time; the gift that costs you nothing. At the other end of the spectrum was the here-and-now philosophy which one of my friends so aptly summarized as “Do your giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going.”

Donating your money, land, or resources to something that lasts forever is a tremendous return on investment. My father was adamant that “giving” was a dirty word. Instead, he countered, we should call it “returning”, since everything that passes through our hands on this mortal coil is transient and on loan anyway.

We are preoccupied with time, but the only things that last are those that are timeless. We obsess over becoming better versions of ourselves, but the only person who touches hearts is an individual who is selfless. Businesses are obsessed with cutting cost and price, yet the top category of perceived value is something that’s priceless.  And when we search for solutions we read the wisdom of the ages, not the wisdom of the week, in order to fill our minds with something timeless. Keep your focus on these qualities and you’ll wind up with more than our limited minds could possibly imagine!

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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April 2011

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