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072914- Perseverance

“Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

Dear Son,

This is my favorite bible verse, hands down.  It’s the first one I memorized and is the only thing I ever thought about having tattooed on my body.  If everybody could adopt the mentality in this verse, their lives would be so much better.

I have counseled with so many people who obsess on the “why”s in their lives.  Why me?  Why now?  Why did my mother have to die?  Why did I lose my house?  Why can’t I have what I DESERVE in life???  I deserve to be happy, don’t I?  (The answer to that is no, by the way, regardless of what the TV preachers say.)

What if those same people found gratitude in the challenges in their lives instead of resenting them?  What if they sought the lesson in every obstacle, instead of complaining about them?  I think if we looked at challenges in your life the same way gamers look at a puzzle, as a way to get to the next level, we would all be so much more content.

While we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we react to it.  Defeatism is a choice, and the RTC is there to see if you’ve got any “quit” in you.  Show them what you are made of and what your strong shoulders can bear.  Dig deep and embrace the pain and the humiliation they heap on you and just remember this is making you stronger for the next time. Every time you think they have got the best of you, push through and know you can go a little farther the next time.

“Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds…” what an empowering thought.

Love,

Dad

 

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072314- Choices

“You’ve only got three choices in life, give up, give in, or give it all you got” Zig Ziglar

Dear Son,

When your mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, it is not an overstatement to say it was devastating.  We had lost her mother to cancer just a couple years before and the mere mention of the word struck panic in our hearts.

When an overwhelming situation presents itself in your life you have to make a decision.  It saddens me to say that I have seen cancer sink it’s fangs into a number of people and families in my life and the biggest factor in the healing and well being of it’s victims come down to attitude.  They may not always beat it, but their quality of life is pretty much contingent upon their mental game.

Your mother is an amazing woman on so many fronts.  I remember when she had you, she didn’t scream or yell at me like they do in the movies, she just buckled down and made it happen.  Her calm strength is the perfect foil to my hot and cold nature.  While she was being treated at M.D. Anderson Hospital, we never left an appointment without somebody saying what an incredible attitude she had and that it was making a difference in her treatment.  Her body was being ravaged by cancer, but she CHOSE to beat it because there was no way she was leaving her sons without a mother.  Thirteen years later she is cancer free and looking forward, not only to seeing her sons grow into men, but meeting her grandkids as well.

There is literally no situation that you cannot alter by the simple act of changing your attitude.  We have a little sign at the restaurant that says “You get to choose your attitude, so pick a good one.”  If your mother can stare down cancer and win, there is nothing in your life you cannot overcome.

Love,

Dad

Attitude

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072114- Courage

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” John Wayne

Dear Son,

Some days in life are just going to be harder than others.  There have been days in my life that I laid there in bed KNOWING the second I put my feet on the floor I would be walking into an all day beating.  Owning a business is kind of like boot camp in that you don’t get to call in sick, you have to face the day regardless of what it promises.  The only way to get through it is to saddle up and charge it like you are taking San Juan Hill.

The next week or so is going to be the hardest of your boot camp experience.  Remember a few things:

  1. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
  2. Very few people have ever died at boot camp.

Have the courage to not only survive the next week, but turn it to your advantage.  Think of it as extra reps at the gym after your arms have given out, or another lap at the track when your legs are on fire.  On the front end it seems impossible, but when you are finished you are proud that you pushed yourself and extended your boundaries.  The best part about stretching is you can go a little farther next time out.  While the instructors are trying to break you, just smile knowing that you are unbreakable and getting even stronger.

Love,

Dad

 

 

 

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072014- Teamwork

“Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success”

Dear Son,

You would have been proud of me today; I took my first yoga class! You would also have been amused by me sitting in my chair with  heating pads on my back, shoulders and neck and groaning like I had just climbed the Matterhorn.  I have formally apologized to everyone I made fun of in the past for taking yoga.

The military does an excellent job of building teams.  First and foremost is to instill in a group of individuals the mindset that the team comes first.  By focusing on the goal of the team, and your role in accomplishing it, much more can be accomplished.

When our church came to me and said they wanted to feed three thousand people, I knew it was going to be a big task.  I also knew that it was literally impossible to do it myself.  The first thing I did was start breaking the event down into modules and finding people to assign the modules to.  From there we built the teams and got to work.  By dividing the task down to manageable chunks, and then assigning them to teams, we were able to feed this huge crowd successfully without burning out our volunteers.

Any big task you are assigned can be tackled by breaking it down into smaller components and then spreading the work over a number of people.  By unloading the bulk of the task-work, you are able to focus on the results.  Every team needs a leader, and by assuming the leadership role you have the opportunity to affect the process and the outcome. But not everyone CAN be the leader.  Sometimes it is important to lead from within the team.  Take your assigned duties and do them in such a way that you make the leader’s role easier.  This is a secret to advancement form within the ranks.

Always remember that to be successful every team needs not only strong leaders, but everyone on the team pulling in the same direction.

Love, 

Dad

 

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071914- Planning

“Failure to plan on your part does not constitute a crisis to those around you.” J-BAR-H Rule of Life #9

Dear Son,

We were so happy to get your letter yesterday that it didn’t even register you are in the 900 division until today.  For a man with such a reserved nature as yourself, signing up for the division that marches at events and graduations is a huge leap for you.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of you for stepping out and stepping up!

I learned today’s quote from the very first secretary I had back in the 90’s.  It was prominently posted right above her desk.  She was a seasoned admin and I was a young account executive and on my very first day she pointed to the sign and said she wasn’t here to save my butt, so plan ahead.  Point taken.  20 years later I remember it vividly.

So many times in life we are thrown in with people that wake up like Frosty The Snowman every day.  They get up with literally no preparation for the day.  Everything is a crisis and they are constantly begging off of those around them to help pull it out.  Every now and then we all have something slip through our fingers and need the urgent help of our friends and co workers, but we have to remember it is OUR crisis, not that of those who are taking time away from their job to help us.  Once it becomes a habit, it makes people not want to be around you.

I always tell my catering clients that I am a “self contained unit.”  I bring everything it takes to do my job with no pressure on the host or facility.  This takes planning and intentionality, but makes me a valuable resource.  My clients know that once I am signed on to the job they don’t have to worry about the food side of the event any longer and can worry about other things.  Run your life as a “self contained unit.”  Be the guy that when you are signed on to something everyone feels relieved instead of groaning because they know they are going to have to carry you.

Love,

Dad

CLICK HERE to see the rest of J-BAR-H’s rules.

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071814- Confidence

“Confidence is contagious.  So is lack of confidence.”  Vince Lombardi

Dear Son,

We got your letter with all the info in it, and even though it was just a “fill in the blanks” one, it really made our day!  We felt like we were finally reconnected with you and now we can plan our trip to your graduation in September!

I am hoping this finds you settled into a routine now.  Getting the letter means you have your ship, and probably took the DEP advancement test.  I know you were prepared for it, so here’s hoping you aced it and got that first promotion!

I was thinking about the old joke this morning that goes something like “All you need to succeed in this life is ignorance and confidence.” It’s an old yarn, but it holds water.  Being confident, even when you don’t have all the information or tools you think you need to handle a situation, is literally a cornerstone of leadership (some would argue that ignorance is as well.)  It’s easy to be confident when you have everything laid out before you and the path lit up for you to take your next step.  It takes a true leader to forge ahead into a dark room with sketchy data and shaky team.

What if the joke said all you need is “faith and confidence”?  Remember that scene in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade where he steps off the edge of that cliff and his foot landed on a hidden bridge?  He had FAITH that his instincts were correct and stepped out confidently.  You may have heard me use the phrase “I am a 70% solution man.”  Just like Indiana, who had the book his dad had compiled, but wasn’t really sure how to bring it all together, you are often presented with the choice to continue your planning until you think you have everything perfect (which means you will never execute) or you can go with the information you have in hand and work out the details as you go.  And also like Indiana, many times the situation forces you to act before you have all the details needed.

Do your best with what you are given; for everything else, rely on your instincts and training.

Love,

Dad

NAVY Emblem

071714- Teamwork

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”  Michael Jordan

Dear Son,

One thing I have learned about teamwork over the years is that you rarely get handed a “dream team.”  There are always a few people that either don’t want to play or are working against you.  Regardless of the makeup of the team, it’s the job of a leader to find the strengths of each person and focus them on the goal of the group.

It isn’t always the most talented, or the best equipped team that wins; many times the win goes to the ones who really just wanted it the most.  Determination goes a long way in overcoming any shortcomings.  In a team environment everyone needs to WANT to win and be willing to get it done.

Teamwork Wins Championships

1990 Longhorn Football

The football team at University of Texas in the 80’s & 90’s was terrible.  Something happened in 1990 & they had their best season since 1983.  They had a decent team, but more than they they were determined to pull it out.  Their motto was “WIT” Whatever It Takes.  It was on t-shirts, billboards, posters,  etc.  They got everyone on board and moving in the same direction and went on to have a 10-2 season! (Unfortunately the momentum didn’t last.)  The point is that they didn’t have a whole lot going for them but a few key players and the determination to win.  Many times situations are thrown at us in life where if we just CHOOSE to win, we can.

For the next few weeks, make the decision to do Whatever It Takes to get the most of boot camp and to lead your team to the top.  Remember that you are setting the tone TODAY for the rest of your military career.

Love,

Dad

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071614- Confidence

Confidence thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance.  Without them it cannot live.”  Franklin D Roosevelt

Dear Son,

Over the next few weeks you are going to be challenged to be more than you ever thought you could be.  You will be put into situations that are 100% foreign to you and you are going to have to perform.  The teachers and the men around you are going to be looking for a leader to emerge and that person is going to be the one who has the confidence to step up, evaluate the situation and cut a pathway through it.  Believing in yourself is the key to being confident.

One thing I have always tried to do as a father is to let you find your own way out of things.  Many times it would have just been easier to step in and resolve the problem myself, but that would have deprived you of an opportunity for growth.  Through trials we develop instincts, skills and confidence.  I look at you and see a man with the internal resources to pull through any situation.

In the quote FDR mentions the “sacredness of obligations”; I have always loved that phrase.  It takes being a man of your word to a new level for me.  It means that other men can be confident in you as well.  When you are a man that is known to take his obligations seriously, people will trust and defer to you.  Leaders will give you room to run because they know they can trust you and subordinates will follow you because they believe in you.

Having confidence in yourself will earn you the confidence of your leaders, peers and subordinates.  This is a keystone for your career.

I am proud of you son.

Love,

Dad

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071514- Faith

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Dear Son,

We finally got the box with your belongings in it.  While your mom has been waiting anxiously for it, and it gave her relief to get something from you, it seemed to hit home with her that you are really gone now.  She has been in your room ever since organizing your stuff and cleaning.  Whenever you get the chance, please call her; she misses you terribly. I do too.

You and I have never agreed on faith or God, and I have never forced it on you or insisted you believe the way I believe.  To be honest, until you came along I felt the same way as you about Christianity and all it’s trappings. One thing I have learned about God is that His love for you exists whether you believe in him or not.  Another thing I have learned is that life has a way of bending you back towards Him.

I almost don’t think a person can comprehend the depth of God’s nature until they have children of their own.  That is not to say if you don’t have kids you are less of a Christian, but to raise a child that struggles against your guidance, who rejects your love at times and takes the path of greatest resistance creates an understanding on a deeper level how God can love us when we can be so unloveable.

I remember Phineas in “A Separate Peace” who prayed every night just in case there is a God.  Is there any harm in hedging your bets?  When you left for the Navy you signed Powers of Attorney over to me, just in case something happens and you can’t take care of your own affairs; faith in God is signing a POA stating when the time comes, your eternal affairs will be handled.

Be strong and courageous, son,

Love,

Dad

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071414- Commitment

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work” Vince Lombardi

Dear Son,

I hope you are settled into your ship and getting into a routine.  How is the food there?

Of the many traits you and I share, individualism reigns supreme among them.  Being an independent thinker is a good quality, but in life we are often a part of group settings and have to find a balance.  The first couple weeks of boot camp is pretty much about breaking down the individual and building up the team.  When there is a crisis on a ship, you want everyone moving as a unit towards the same end.

I don’t think committing ones self to a team effort really negates the individual at all.  I’d use a sports analogy here, but you know I’d wreck it.  What I DO know is food.  When I make a gumbo, the end result is one cohesive dish made up of ingredients that seem to have nothing in common.  When you eat it, nothing glares out at you other than the overall harmony of flavor, but that flavor is the end result of tons of individual ingredients.  If I threw the gumbo together from cheap ingredients you would be able to taste it in the final product.  Using the freshest, highest quality crab & shrimp; taking the time to develop a deep roux; investing money and time in my ingredients makes the final dish so much more than the sum of it’s parts.  That is how it is when you commit to the team effort.  Your individual effort, even though it may not stand out on it’s own, makes the team’s effort that much more successful.  When the team wins, you win.

Love,

Dad