Monday, December 16, 2013


Today I am reminded of how important it is to recharge my batteries and refocus.

My workplace, a university campus, has turned into something like a ghost town that you might see in an old western. The students are on Christmas break and there are few faculty members still on campus. This morning has been invigorating just knowing I wouldn't have any students drop in for a "quick question" or colleagues needing a hand. Don't get me wrong I am happy to offer help if asked, but the constant breaks in a day can ruin any momentum towards progress.

Today is about refocusing. Today is about accomplishing tasks that were put on the back burner  and re-prioritizing my task list for the coming semester. 

This day is not only much needed, it's been long overdue. How often do you take these days? Admittedly, I don't take them near enough, but that's going to change... starting today. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Solving problems is like shaving

Have you ever noticed that every time you shave, the hair begins to grow back within hours? Shaving is a temporary solution to an everyday problem.

Think about the time spent each day you spend with the electric razor working to get every single hair clipped off or maybe you're a purest who uses a straight blade and cream. Regardless of the approach, the truth still remains, that hair will grow back and will need to be shaved again tomorrow.

Why do we handle problems like we do our hair stubble? We act as if we can somehow remove the issue for a while, but we know tomorrow the problem will be back. We spend time each day to remove the unwanted issue so those who interact with us won't notice it exists.

We have several reasons for not wanting to fix a problem permanently: time, money, effort, true desire to change, and exposure to the situation. \

Staying with the shaving illustration, waxing works as well but can be painful, costly, and then there are those red marks left for a little while after the procedure. I once met with a student who had huge red marks all around his eyebrows. (If you know me, you know I embrace my large eyebrows.) I finally asked him if he was okay because I had never seen marks like that before. After he told me he feared the ever present uni-brow, he decided he would rather wax it and live with the pain and minimal razzing he would receive from his buddies over the constant shaving and serious razzing he would likely receive.

And then there is laser treatment. I have only heard from those who had a procedure, but the treatment does not sound painless or cheap. A more permanent solution comes at a cost.

As leaders we ought to seek the more permanent solution. Sometimes the cost is too great and would cause a social outcry, but temporary solutions aren't really solutions. Temporary-fix is an oxymoron. Look for ways to make a permanent change in your life, family, and workplace.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Choosing the A to Z Path

You only get one shot at life, live wisely. For a while, I thought you could script the path to attaining your goals. There was no such thing as " right place at the right time." Everything revolved around strategy; you had to make it happen. Just recently I had a big decision to make. I was convinced this decision would make a huge impact in my future career. I knew this was one of the opportunities that I needed to chase, but in my heart I knew it was probably not the best for me. Would it have been a fun opportunity? Yes. Would it have been excellent for my career? Yes. Would I have done well with this opportunity? Maybe. I asked myself these and 101 more questions. After seriously considering all of the options, strategy said yes but my heart said no. I took a big step back to realize I'm in a great spot right now and there's no need to move.

Sometimes strategy can cloud our vision. Strategy isn't a bad thing, but we must allow our emotions to come through at times. A lot of times we think of how to get from A to B. I would challenge you to think of it in a different way, think of it as getting from A to Z. With A to B there are no other options, it's a straight shot. Though it may be the quickest, there are no other options. There is no room for change of heart, there's no room for change in situation, and at times there's no room for family. The A to Z approach allows several different avenues and outlets to get from one point to the other.

The A to B approach puts blinders on you. There is something to be said for targeting a goal and then attaining that goal. However, these goals I'm talking about are not short-term. These goals are life goals. Life goals take time. Life goals take energy. And life goals take heart.

I'm fortunate that early in my career I've had the opportunity to be mentored by experienced professionals. If you have the opportunity to talk to any of them you'll notice one common theme; they all had different paths that got them where they are today.

There's no prescribed path for success. You must follow your heart, and at some point your heart may tell you to choose a different path or a different goal altogether.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Passion + Soda Pop = Customer Loyalty

Passion is all too often overlooked today. Today we look for the person who can get us the quickest results for the least amount of money. People all over the world pour their passion into what they do. Sometimes their passion is for something as peculiar as carbonated beverages. Check out this video and be amazed at how much passion someone can have for a sugary drink:

John Nese is not normal. He cares about unique soft drinks, glass bottles and getting the exclusive rights to drinks most people have never heard of; John is challenging the way we all do business. His customer base continues to grow and come to his shop because they know there is something different about Galcos Soda Pop Stop.

Be different. Have Passion

Thursday, May 23, 2013

To College Students Everywhere

Do not let this summer come and go without improving something in your life. A normal summer is full of laziness. Sure, a summer job is usually in the cards, but does that job really make you better at anything? Decide you will press through this summer with purpose. Reading books, learning a new language, and getting outside your comfort zone are only three of the endless ways your summer could be spent. Do not prove those gray hairs right by spending all of your time on Twitter and Running with Friends. Be different. Yours is the generation that brought the idea of solving the world’s problems with a buy one give one concept. Sustainability is an idea mainstreamed by you. Do not fall into the trap of every summer ever, don’t be normal. Make a difference. Because the truth is, you will be leading our world in a much more formal role in a few short years. You have a great chance to begin to prove to the current leaders that they are wrong about you. Live each day with purpose (even those summer days).    

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reflecting On The Last Nine Years (The Short Version)

In the fall of 2004 I started working in the president’s office as a student worker. I had no idea how my future would be transformed by taking that job.

For the last seven years I’ve worked in a more formal role as the assistant to president. Every day provided an obstacle, but it also provided an opportunity to learn something new. At the core of my learning experience was Dr. David Burks. He would allow me to sit in on meetings I had no business being in, make presentations on behalf of Harding, and even sit at the table for strategic planning. I had a front row seat to the inner-workings of higher education.

Before working with Dr. Burks, I had no intention of being involved in higher education as a career. His patience with me and determination to teach me what he knew about higher education is something I will never forget. I am in higher education today because of him. His passion for teaching and shaping young adults is carried on through many people; I am included in that number.

His guidance and mentorship has meant the world to me. He taught me about leadership in a very tangible way. There was no need for conceptual discussion because he put me right in the middle of situations that would stretch and mold me into a leader. Dr. Burks genuinely loved coming to work each day. There were some days that may have been less desirable than others, but he chose to lead by example and pushed through the hard times with little if any complaining. I cannot think of a better mentor than a senior executive who loves what he does; David Burks was that for me.

The most valuable piece of advice he ever gave me is to “In all things keep your faith strong. Do not let the job take such a toll on your life that you put your relationship with God on the back-burner  Stressful situations in the workplace will come and go, but God will always be there for you; do not neglect your relationship with Him.” This advice is representative of how he fulfilled the role of president and how he became an instant leader to those he came in contact with.

June 1, 2013 will be a marker on his career as president, but not the end of his leadership by any stretch. This post does not even scratch the surface of the amount of respect I have or the gratitude I owe David Burks. He is and will continue to be a dear friend and mentor. Working with him over the past 9 years has made a profound impact on my life, it has truly been transformational.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Normal Is Not Safe

Normal is what got us here. Normal is safe.

These two ideas are unfortunately in the minds of too many leaders today. Companies that once changed the business world by their innovative products are now in a rut of normalcy. What got them to their position of success is assumed to retain their placement in the business world. Innovation is stifled.

Being open to new ideas is essential to continued growth. Blockbuster is a great example of a company that decided the way things have always been done would suffice going forward. Blockbuster did try to stream movies and even mail orders out, but it was too late; someone else had already blazed the trail for what we know as Netflix and Redbox.

Can you think of the last time someone decided your new idea was too hard to accomplish? Maybe the phrases "That's not how we do it around here" or "We've always done it this way and it's served us well" come to mind? True leaders innovate. They not only innovate, leaders remove bureaucracy and hurdles that may stifle original ideas within the team.

Do not become a Blockbuster. Do not let your innovative ideas be silenced. Do not become the kind of leader who stifles innovative team members. You will not only risk breaking their spirit, you risk losing them to a leader who is open to new ideas. In a world that is changing daily, taking risks are not easy, but being normal is not safe.  Being normal will not get you where you need to be.   

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Just last week Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart US, was recalling an interaction he had with a recent college graduate. The question presented to Simon revolved around career advice. He responded with a simple question, “What do you want to do?” The graduate quickly responded, “I want to be a vice-president.” Simon suggested she work at a bank because everyone there is vice-president.

At the heart of the matter stands a deeper response, an introspective one. What do you want to do? Simon suggests that a title is not what you want to do; it’s what you want to be called. Decide now what you want to do and work towards that framework. The real question is the tough one. Anyone can say they want to be a vice-president, but what will you accomplish as a vice-president? How will you decide to spend your life? Will it be based on obtaining a meaningless title or will your life have purpose because of what you do and not what you are called? 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Strategic Decision

After reading Platform by Michael Hyatt and after digesting anything on blog strategy I could find, I’ve decided to make Thursday the official post day of There could be posts outside of Thursday that are additional thoughts or ideas, but my aim is put good content out every Thursday.

Why Thursday? It’s that day of the week that becomes a stumbling block. We look so quickly for Friday because the weekend is in our sight. Thursday can be a sluggish day full of unproductive activities. This blog’s purpose is to provide ideas or thoughts that will help us re:Define Normal.

Normal is boring and to be quite honest, it isn’t working for most people.

Normal is working 9-5 with no passion for what you do.

Normal is being overloaded with debt.

Normal is walking through life with no real desire to learn new things.

Normal is defining our culture.

It’s time to re:Define Normal.

Friday, March 1, 2013

TEDTalk: The Power of Vulnerability

When was the last time you felt vulnerable? Being exposed in life isn't the worst thing in the world. Some of the best leaders in the world know their vulnerability. Brene Brown presents a self-discovery that can make an impact in the life of anyone. Brown suggests a new way to re:define normal. What do you think about allowing yourself to understand and embrace your vulnerability? Don't forget to comment below.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Leaders: Don't Become Captain Edward Smith

Many leaders choose to execute their original visions at all costs; even to the detriment of the organization. The normal way to lead is to stay the course at all costs. However, a true leader is able and willing to adjust in real-time, especially when the environment around them changes.

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic, the largest ship ever built, departed from Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City. There was no expense spared when this ship was decked out from bow to stern. A legend even before she sailed, her passengers were a mixture of the world's wealthiest.

The Titanic was touted as the safest ship ever built, so safe that she carried only 20 lifeboats - enough to provide accommodation for only half her 2,200 passengers and crew. There would be no need for lifeboats, because this ship was unsinkable.

Four days into the maiden voyage the ship struck an iceberg, and the rest is history. One day before the fatal collision, Captain Edward John Smith had been warned of the dangerous field of icebergs ahead, but he refused to change course. He had a plan and vision of sailing this massive ship all the way to New York and he was not going to be bothered by some silly iceberg. After all, the Titanic was unsinkable.

Why don't leaders today take notice of the leaders of yesterday? A leader cannot simply blaze a new trail with no regard for anything happening around them. Don't be normal. Don't fall into the trap of "your way or the highway." A good leader not only knows how to adapt, but is willing to make the necessary changes to facilitate the adaptation.

Don't let your business or organization become the titanic and don't start channelling your inner-Captain Smith. Be different.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What We Can Learn From The Pope

Pope Benedict stunned the Roman Catholic Church this week when he announced he would step down, the first pope to do so in over 600 years. The Pope said he no longer had the mental or physical strength to carry on. His announcement produced some uncertainty for the Roman Catholic Church, but that's not necessarily a bad thing and change isn't always bad.

History Lesson: The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months, his resignation was known as "the great refusal" and was condemned by the poet Dante in the "Divine Comedy". Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy.

The point is, the pope doesn't retire. Even though a reported 1.2 billion people around the world are counting on the leadership of Pope Benedict, he chose to step aside because he had already done what he believed he could and was not comfortable going forward. A pope at anything less than 100% would not suit Benedict. He was great friends with the pope before him, Pope John Paul. At the end, John Paul was clearly unable to perform the duties of any profession, let alone being the pope. Benedict wasn't going to let that become his legacy.

Can we learn something for that? It's easy for me to say as a guy who is in the early stages of life and his career, but I think we can learn from the pope's decision. If we can't step aside and let a new generation take up the torch, the flame will die. Knowing when to pass the torch is probably one of the more challenging issues in life.

Pope Benedict may not be known as the people's choice or most iconic Pope, but he will always be remembered as the guy who recognized he couldn't give the job what it demanded and he took the exit at stage right. By doing so, he redefined normal and challenged the status quo.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Goal #2 - Complete My Doctorate

This may be the most aggressive goal on my list, but I'm going for it. 2013 is the year of the doctorate! This past weekend was a huge step closer to completing goal number two, I took the comprehensive exam. Hands down, this was the most challenging test I have ever had in my life. We knew there would be one question and we would have three hours to answer it... everything else was fair game. Now that the dust has settled, I have a small feeling that I probably didn't fail the exam. This may not seem like a super positive outlook, but before the exam I was certain I wasn't ready and failure was the only option. To complete this goal, my timeline is going to have to be pretty precise and I know I'll have to keep plugging along even when I want to take a break. I have to keep telling myself that I'll get a break when I defend that dissertation. This is going to be one of the only goals I will be semi-comfortable with not completing, because I want to make sure the quality is there. I was fortunate enough (that's an understatement) to have been accepted into a solid program, I don't want to take shortcuts now that I'm in. So among the other things happening this year, it's possible I finish this crazy thing and get to have some night hours back.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Goal #1 - Read More

If you're like me then reading probably isn't on your top ten list of things to accomplish today, but it should be. I am amazed at how much can be gained from reading. I'm sure there is something to be gained from reading fiction, but that's not what I'm talking about here. If I heard it one time, I've heard it a million, "Leaders Read." Whether it's the front page of a news site, a blog, or even a book, reading is important for growth. It can also play a role in renewal and reaffirmation. It's a great feeling when you find that a noted author agrees with something you are doing in your life. Right now I'm in a weird spot in my life where reading what I want to read isn't easy. I have books, journals, dissertations and other scholarly work that I have to read through to keep up with my studies. Most of the time this reading is okay, but it's not necessarily what I want to read. I enjoy reading leadership books, books about strategic management and personal finance. I read to be inspired. I read because every time I dig into a book, I learn something new. Leaders read because there is always something new out there. I may not know Tom Peters, Jon Acuff, Ken Blanchard, John Kotter or Dave Ramsey but these guys teach me things.

My first new goal is simple: I plan to read one book a month.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Goals For 2013

I have been thinking over things that I would like to do or improve upon in 2013. Some of these are personal goals and some professional. In no particular order....

1- Read more

2- Complete Doctorate

3- Keep my options open

4- Get to know at least one new person a week

5- Get up the first time my alarm goes off

6- Offer value to those around me without expecting anything in return

7- Eat healthy & exercise more often

Over the next few weeks I'll post on each of these. I'll give you my game plan for completion and tell you why it's important to me.

Do you have any goals for the new year? Jot down a few and post them in the comments section below.