Yesterday, Gail and I were traveling to San Antonio, Texas, where I was scheduled to speak. As we sat at the gate waiting to board, the gentleman sitting next to me was engaged in a phone conversation.
Apparently, he had just had a negative exchange with a TSA agent. He bellowed into the phone, “Yea, you pay an idiot ten bucks an hour, pin a badge on his chest, and he thinks he is God.”
Early in my career, I was the marketing director for a book publishing company. Because of my workload and the on-going pressure to produce results, I felt overwhelmed. I was certain that it was only a matter of time before my boss discovered that I was in over my head.
This produced uncertainty. I was afraid to act. Instead, I worried and spent an inordinate amount of time thinking through worst-case scenarios—something I am pretty good at.
As you may know, I stepped aside from my role as the CEO of Thomas Nelson in April. Though I still remain the company’s Chairman, I am now pursuing speaking and writing full-time.
So far, it has been like starting a new business. I am busier than ever before. I am traveling weekly, speaking for corporations, colleges, conferences, non-profits, and churches. I am having a blast!
There’s an old proverb that’s states, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). But what if we could better prepare ourselves to stay away from folly all together, yet alone repeat it?
As I turned the corner from my 20s and entered into my 30s I realized how much I thought I knew, when in reality I knew nothing. I began to find myself as the fool repeating his folly in so many leadership decisions I was making.
Gail and I have been married for thirty-three years. She is my lover, my best friend, and my coach. But a few days ago we had a fight. It was a doozy.
It’s not important what it was about. It was one of those issues we have stumbled over previously. But I will admit that it was my fault. I ambushed her and let it escalate beyond what the circumstances warranted.
Several years ago, I heard the CEO of a major corporation speak at a leadership conference. He begin his speech by telling us that he wasn’t a “gifted speaker.” He then rambled for a solid hour. Clearly, he was unprepared. It was painful.
He had fallen victim to “The Narrator.”
Years ago, my boss suddenly resigned. I was pretty sure his boss would offer me his job, but it didn’t happen immediately. He told me he wanted to think it over and consider his options.
Frankly, I was disappointed. From my perspective, it was a no-brainer. I was the logical choice!
I could have reacted in several ways:
In 1991 I, along with my business partner, suffered a financial meltdown. We had built a successful publishing company, but our growth outstripped our working capital. We simply ran out of cash.
For a while our distributor funded us in the form of cash advances on our sales. But eventually, their parent company wanted those advances back. Although we didn’t officially go bankrupt, the distributor essentially foreclosed on us and took over all our assets.
It’s easy to look at successful people and envy their situation. What you often don’t see is the pain they went through to get there. That certainly applies to me.
I didn’t eventually become a CEO because I made fewer mistakes than you. In fact, it’s probably just the opposite. I made more. In fact, I’ve been fired from three jobs in my career.
Each of these was a very painful experience. But these experiences also taught me important lessons that I probably could not have learned any other way.
This past spring, I had the privilege of hosting the Chick-fil-A Leadercast Backstage program. I interviewed several notable authors as they came off the stage, including Seth Godin, Sir Ken Robinson, Dan Cathy, John Maxwell, and Frans Johansson. I am continuing to share these on a weekly basis.
In this interview, I talk to Alison Levine, an amazing woman that I met for the first time. Her life is an eloquent testimony to the fact that, despite physical challenges, you can accomplish extraordinary things—especially if you are persistent.
I read a lot. In fact, much of my day is spent reading: news, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and—my favorite—books. All in all, I probably invest two hours a day reading. My theory (not original) is that “leaders read and readers lead.”
I generally divide this into two blocks: I typically read for about an hour when I first wake up. I then read for another hour after dinner, before I go to bed.