A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

The Humility of Leadership

Outstanding by John G. MillerI believe that humility is the cornerstone of leadership. Others do, too. Russ Gasdia, vice president of sales and marketing for Purdue Pharma, sums it up well. When asked to list three characteristics of an “effective leader,” he said, “Humility, humility, and humility. They know they make mistakes, accept feedback from others in order to learn, admit they don’t always know what’s right, and recognize it’s not ‘all about them.’ When they succeed, they are humble. When they fail, they are humble. And lastly, they never think they are more important than the customer!”

     Humility is a key trait of outstanding organizations – and of individuals. Humility helps people be more likable and approachable, work better with others, and give better service to customers. It enables departments and teams to collaborate with other departments and teams. Perhaps most important, it allows people to communicate more freely, creating a culture of authenticity and accountability that every outstanding organization requires.

John G Miller, Outstanding

The most persuasive leader is the one who you know has your best interest at heart. Don’t be the leader who knows everything, can handle every problem, and is constantly double-checking the efforts of their team. That arrogance will cost you. By hiding behind that inauthentic facade, you miss the opportunity for true success.

 

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March 21, 2013 Posted by | Read and Reviewed, Work and Money | , , , | Comments Off on The Humility of Leadership

The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant

The Monk and the MerchantI received a copy of this book when I was out in Nashville getting trained as a financial coach by Dave Ramsey’s team. (Actually, I received a half-dozen books for free while I was there. That was pretty awesome.) If you are an employee at his company, then this book is required reading. That sounded like a ringing endorsement to me, so I moved it to the top of my reading list. At 160 pages, I found it an easy read, and I was able to tear through it in less than a day.

At its heart, this novel is trying to impart twelve principles that are to be the building blocks of a successful life. The author, Terry Felber, has couched these principles in the fictional story of a grandfather retelling his history as a lifelong merchant to his grandson who is about to enter the marketplace. The story is set in and around Rome in the 16th century, but the setting merely serves as a painted canvas backdrop for the conversations between the main characters. The struggles of a young merchant learning to become a success in business while serving his Maker are what takes center stage.

     Antonio turned the page of the book in his hands and laid it down on the table  in front of him. With his eyes still connected with Julio’s, he spun the book around so it faced his grandson.

     “This is the first secret to success,” he said as he pointed to the only writing on that page. Julio looked down at the book and read the words out loud.

Each of the book’s twelve principles are taught within the context of how they were learned by the old merchant, and the story flows very smoothly from tale to tale. Felber is clearly making the case that being in business, either as an owner or employee, is a spiritual action. Our work is a form of worship, and we are honoring our God by serving our customers. Work is a ministry, no matter what the profit margin is.

Unfortunately, the simple wording of a few of Felber’s principles can be misinterpreted. For example, the first principle is “Work hard and God will prosper you.” That can easily be taken to mean that God delivers riches to those that please him. That’s not biblical, and within the context of the story, it isn’t what is being said. Based on my reading of the book, I seriously doubt that Felber is pushing a prosperity gospel. He simply wants us to approach work, money, and business with the right attitude.

     “Antonio, you have done well. You have followed your passion and built a great empire to the glory of God. You have used your gifts and talents to serve people and to extend the reach of your influence. Now it is time for you to reach up.”

I recommend The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant. It’s not a perfect book, but what is being shared is a great introduction to the concepts of work as ministry and biblical money management. The simple language and short length make it a quick read and easily accessible by young men and women in your life. I’d encourage you to get the version that includes the forward by Dave Ramsey, as his take on the material does a good job of setting the tone for the book and is well worth the read.

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Read and Reviewed, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Never Retire

(This covers the tenth chapter from Rabbi Daniel Lapin‘s book Thou Shall Prosper. Each chapter is one part of a set of core principles that approach business and money as spiritual practices, referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments for Making Money.’ I’m reviewing the final ‘Commandment’ here, which completes my commitment to go over all ten. You can find out more in this post discussing my overall thoughts on the book. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, come from the book.)

If  retirement is your goal, your entire drive will be deeply flawed. You will never create all you could have. However, if you view your creative, professional life as an exciting, ongoing process with no defined expiration date, you avoid limiting your potential.

This discussion can cause a substantial amount of trouble if not handled with care. The concept of retirement has become ingrained into our culture. Thanks to the Social Security system, a firm age has been set for what many consider the end of productive work and the start of the “good life.” Individual plans may vary slightly, but if you’re not ready, willing, and able to quit your job by the time Uncle Sam starts sending you regular checks, then our society generally thinks that you’re doing it wrong.

So, apart from the everyday joy from embracing weirdness, what do we gain by rejecting the idea of retiring? Even if you plan to work until you die, you should still be investing and growing your wealth. You should still be making plans for the next 5, or 10, or even 25 years of your life.  You don’t get to slack off just because you’ll be working as long as you’re able. Why not go ahead and just enjoy those last years? I’ll give you two reasons.

1. Work has to be more than just a means to an end. I’ve written about this a couple of times before. Suffice to say, the career we choose shouldn’t just be about the profits we’ll earn. It should provide us with a chance to live out a purpose, and it should fill us with joy. Every step we take along our career path should be one step closer to each one of us doing the work that is uniquely ours to be doing. If we succeed at that, having to stop should be a nightmare, not a dream.

2. Age alone doesn’t determine productivity.  It would be a mistake to overemphasize the importance of our physical ability to our talent to create. Expertise, experience and wisdom have disappeared from our workplaces too quickly, and have not been easily replaced. In an information based economy, we need people who can provide  knowledge to remain in the workforce longer. We also need people who are well connected to the people that they serve and care for, and that level of connection takes time. Don’t plan to deny others the benefit of your presence simply because you’ve achieved some magic number.

For the last time, here are some quotes from the book that stood out to me:

The reason that the belief in retirement as a life goal is so destructive is that it seems to form a kind of spiritual virus that infects all your thinking. […] If you visualize some day in your future when you will no longer “have to work,” you are subconsciously slowing down already.

Short-timer’s disease is a real thing, and I’ve seen (and been guilty of) it’s results far too often. It’s frightening to think that, by even considering an eventual date of departure, you infect yourself with an attitude that will negatively affect the quality of your work for years to come.

Dr. Donald Hensrud is the director of the Mayo Clinic Executive Health Program. He says, “Life revolves around relationships, and it shows in aging. People who maintain close relationships live longer and healthily. It may sound corny, but caring for others helps us care for ourselves.” […] Working productively means that you are caring for others.

[W]ork is chiefly about how other people will benefit from your efforts. It may be today or it maybe in the future, but engaging in work is a moral, benevolent, and caring thing to do.

We’ve come full circle back to the premises of the first two Commandments. Work is moral. It connects us to others. We should never stop.

A person’s real economic value is spiritual, not physical. You may have a certain economic value, which is to say a value to your fellow humans, as a ditch digger, but it is only a fraction of your real value.

What are you truly worth? How do you determine an accurate measurement of your contributions to the world around you?

Sustaining the retirement myth contributes to people mistakenly subscribing to the notion that humans are chiefly consumers rather than creators and that as such, the best way to run business affairs is to minimize the number of these consumers.

Never forget that we are all more than just mouths that need to be fed, and bodies that need to be sheltered. Each of us creates and builds more value into this world simply by existing.

And that’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Tenth Commandment for Making Money. Finally. This has been an interesting exercise, but I think I’ll keep my book reviews more restrained in the future.

If you’re new to this, take the time to the start from the beginning with my thoughts on Chapter One, Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.

May 7, 2012 Posted by | Read and Reviewed, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Never Retire

Act Rich: Give Away 10 Percent of Your After-Tax Income

(This covers the ninth chapter from Rabbi Daniel Lapin‘s book Thou Shall Prosper. Each chapter is one part of a set of core principles that approach business and money as spiritual practices, referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments for Making Money.’ I’m reviewing the ninth ‘Commandment’ here. My plan is to go through all ten. You can find out more in this post discussing my thoughts on the book. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, come from the book.)

The very best way to come across to others as a fair-minded, big-spirited benefactor […] is to become a regular contributor to charities. To be sure, not only will this have you coming across as a larger person but, in fact, it will make you become a larger person.

I know that it’s been the better part of a year since I wrote my thoughts about the last chapter, and it’s been a year and a half since I started my review of this book. I’m not going to bother making excuses. Chastise me in the comments, if you must.

I don’t think the title of this chapter needed to be as specific as it was written. I do agree that generosity and charity are a fundamental part of any wealth-building plan. In fact, as you grow more wealthy, you should repeatedly reevaluate how much you are giving away and, hopefully, increase it. Ideally, 10% of your after-tax income would only be a start.

Now, I fully expect that some of you are looking at your monitors like a crazy person wrote that. Giving your money away doesn’t logically lead to wealth-building. Give away even more as you get more, that doesn’t make any sense either. How do you get rich by giving so much away?

Rationality is an excellent instrument for solving puzzles and paradoxes, but it is rather less effective when used to explain human behavior.

Questions of my sanity aside, it turns out that your level of generosity paints a clear picture of your attitude towards money. Dave Ramsey uses a great visual during some of his lessons where he compares holding your money in an open hand versus grasping it in a clenched fist. Money may escape the open hand more easily, but it can also find it’s way back with hardly any trouble. Being generous is actually a very common trait among wealthy people, and often they were givers before they were rich.

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.

– Proverbs 11:24-25

So, what is it about an attitude of generosity that makes it so key to building our own wealth? How does the open hand attract more money to it?

1. Generosity is an exercise in risk. Unlike just about any other financial transaction, with charitable giving you irrevocably give up control of your money. Once you give it, you’re unlikely to get anything directly in  return, and you give up all say as to how it is used. That’s helpful, because it reminds us that there are no guarantees with any financial transaction, and it encourages us to develop and use wisdom prior to a transaction. The more risks we take, the more wisdom we have for our next transaction.

2. Generosity points your heart in an outward direction. In the Bible, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Wherever you are placing your money, your heart is going to follow. Your thoughts, concern, and energy become invested along with your capital. When you donate some of your money towards serving and meeting the needs of others it connects your heart to them, and as you interact with those charities, it exposes you to new financial (and social, and career, and spiritual) opportunities.

Finally, here are a couple more quotes from the chapter that stood out to me:

Jews do not give away money because it is always rational to do so, but in spite of the fact that it is often irrational. Jews give money away not because it is rational but because it is right.

What makes it right? Even if you engage in the risk of giving and see absolutely no return, to yourself or others, was your generosity still right?

I don’t want to sound too metaphysical, but your object is to create a movement of money from the world around you to you.  There is a sad sense in which each person lives a lonely, isolated existence. […E]verything of value flows from how effectively you battle that loneliness and how effectively you bond with others.

Unconnected people generally find it difficult to build wealth. Generous people have more opportunities to build connections.

It is hard to invest effectively if you absolutely must win every single time. That is not how investing works, and it is not how business works. In fact, it is not how life works at all.

Life is full of failures. The question is, how do you handle them? Are they millstones weighing you down, or a stepping stones that help you grow?

Active, busy, creative people produce so much more value than the food they eat and the shelter they occupy. They are far from net consumers.

We tend to throw around the word consumer a lot, without thinking what that is saying about the people we’re referring to. What are we saying about our customers when we call them consumers?

That’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Ninth Commandment for Making Money. Keep looking here for my thoughts on the Tenth (and final) Commandment: Never Retire. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Read and Reviewed, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment