Good Directions

Moving Forward

Imagine your favorite action movie. The ground is crumbling behind our heroes and heroines as they run toward the only escape available to them. Our heart is in our throat, as we encourage them to go, quickly, forward.

Life is like that. There is no standing still. There is no going back. The only direction to safety is forward.

The Story of a Friend

I lost a dear friend of twenty-plus years because he made a choice to be comfortable in a rut. The definition of a rut is – a grave with the ends kicked out. Yes, it’s dark, damp, and depressing down there. My friend exploded upon being reminded of the only two choices we have: Grow or Die.

He assured me in no uncertain terms that he was not depressed. (The fellow doth protest too much, methinks.)

As recently as, November 15, 2006, this is the complete text of the Testimonial he offered when asked to document our business relationship — Client and Certified Public Accountant.

While reflecting on the past years of business growth … the ups and downs; the trials and tests; the hard work; and, never-ending commitment to push forward … I come to realize that you have been a vital part of that growth. You have been with us all the way.

The accounting profession has truly been honored by your steadfast commitment to serving, to advise … to help direct my thoughts in the financial decisions of our company. It has made my job as CEO much easier.

We are in our 15th year and looking forward to working with you in the years to come.

Fast forward to September 14, 2011, and this is my goodbye to a business relationship, which was enjoyed by that friend, who (at one time) was closer than any brother.

The purpose of this letter is to document the essence of our phone conversation, yesterday.

At the end of that conversation, you wondered if your message was adequately communicated by asking, “Is that clear?!” My response, “Perfectly.”

It is crystal clear that there is a difference in core philosophies.

You believe and have stated quite clearly, numerous times over the last few months, that you and your Company are at the mercy of the Hand of Fate. In essence, you are tethered to a fixed set of practices, which have brought you success in the Past — and, now, are frustrated that the Present is less than accepting.

I believe life is what we make of it, friend — if it doesn’t fit, make alterations. My purpose in business is summarized in four words: Building Bright Financial Futures. I have gone to great lengths to promote this idea to the world via every digital means possible. I have clearly communicated this core belief to you via an email conversation thread from May 17th to July 20th.

My last email request of you was for one hour of your time to discern how we might build a dynamic business relationship. Having heard absolutely nothing from you, I called yesterday with an offer for year-end planning. In the past, you welcomed the opportunity for us to talk about your Company.

You chose to refuse my offer. You have that right. I also have the right to choose.

As of today, we no longer have a business relationship. You are encouraged to engage other professionals to provide services for your financial fiscal year (and, payroll calendar quarter) ended September 30th. Documents in your Client File Portal will be available to you and your representatives until December 31st.

What happened between November 15, 2006, and September 14, 2011?

We will never know. To be judgmental toward my friend and all he has experienced in the last five years is the wrong thing to do. I can, though, tell my story. In the past, I have first-hand knowledge and experience of what it’s like to be stuck in a rut. It is dark, damp and depressing.

Rest of the Story

Since this is my story, I’ll finish telling it my way.

The darkest times in my life began, at the moment, when I started to think that I had arrived. Thinking that I had reached my destination and could quit — or, coast — or, savor the rewards — or, otherwise think I had, really, become somebody. You see, the focus had shifted to thinking, believing, and acting as if, the world revolved around me.

In the simplest of analogies, my life had gone off a cliff. The ground was, literally, crumbling beneath my feet as I tumbled into the chasm of darkness.

Recovery from the pit was only possible by acknowledging, “There but for the grace of God go I” … further down into the abyss. At that moment, there was a Rock on which to cling and a view of the hard work necessary to climb from the rubble into the brightness of opportunity, once again.

Don’t Look Down

There is nothing new under the sun.

There’s a story of a guy walking on water. His name was Peter and he was a cocky fellow, with relatives from Missouri (the Show Me state). He enjoyed the companionship of a friend, who cared deeply about the growth of others.

So, one day Peter challenged his friend with, “If you’re really as good as you claim, ask me to walk on water.” Guys being guys, the friend accepted the challenge and said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water. But, when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink.

Moral of this story: Don’t look down.

Children Grow Up

In fact, don’t look back, either. The ground is crumbling behind us. There is only one safe path — Forward.

There’s another story of a guy pondering the progression of life. His name was Paul and one of his many attributes was that of a Philosopher. He observed, “When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child. I had the understanding of a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Moral of this story: Children grow up.

The Challenge

At this point in my story, there is at least one person just aching to challenge this thesis of — Forward motion being the best direction and Growth being a prerequisite to a rich life. They will posit that “going back” has its merits.

As in:

We miss a turn at the intersection and need to go back.

We forget something when leaving on vacation and need to go back.

We neglect to learn a lesson and need to go back (for another dose).

We ignore an opportunity, which is good for us, and need to go back.

Going Back & Moving Forward

I agree. There are legitimate times for us to go back and recover from frailties of the human condition. “Thank God for Good Directions and turnip greens!” (by Billy Currington and his album Doin’ Somethin’ Right) Turn up your speakers and enjoy this tune.

For the astute scholars among us, I will acknowledge their point that we are encouraged by the Good Book to go back. As we examine this riddle to the very essence of life, the answer is simple. We are encouraged to be childlike, not childish. There is a difference.

So… at the moment, when there is the temptation to think we have arrived and can stop growing — Look up, think forward, and really focus on the hard work to take the next step.

Go ahead — do it. Now, that we are big kids — older and wiser, with all of our education and experience, hurts and betrayals, safely archived in the memory banks — do it. Be innocent, be sweet, be open, be humble, be accepting, be trusting, and believe that we can experience heaven, here on earth.

All we need to do is to take that next step — often into the unknown — forward, to grow.

Stewardship

The difference between rich and poor is not money. It is the ability to manage the resources available. Many have inherited great amounts of wealth to die broke. Others were born into little and leave behind a legacy.

In the annals of history and the stories of today, Captains of industry are less influential than the Stewards of relationships. In other words, the Empire is less important than the Builders. Regardless of what is built, it is temporary and limited in effect. Those who touch hearts and souls, today, influence the future for many generations.

As we consider our “ships” of families, friends, and communities, why is our role of “steward” important; and, who, really, is the ultimate beneficiary?

Taking Care

Let’s take a look at what stewardship is.

Historically, stewardship was the responsibility given to household servants to bring food and drinks to a castle dining hall. The term was then expanded to indicate a household employee’s responsibility for managing a household or domestic affairs. Stewardship later became the responsibility for taking care of passengers’ domestic needs on a ship, train, and airplane or managing the service provided to diners in a restaurant. The term continues to be used in these specific ways, but it is also used in a more general way to refer to a responsibility to take care of something owned by someone else.

Taking Care of People

At the moment we fully embrace the reality of our temporary existence, our view of life changes. In the simplest of terms, our focus shifts from Stuff, to People.

Our thinking changes to embrace the concept of Service over Self. To do so, we abandon any desire to have power over another. We take inventory of our gifts and work to multiply their effectiveness by mentoring, nurturing, and sharing in authentic ways the best of all that we have been given.

Specifically, great Stewards:

•  Share Information
•  Are Accessible
•  Keep Their Hands Engaged
•  Stand For Something
•  Banish Superficial Distractions
•  Make Everything Better
•  Coach, Mentor, and Serve

To share, we must, first of all, possess something of value. We have all been entrusted with unique gifts and have a fiduciary responsibility to enhance them into more powerful tools.

Taking Care to Share

People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. We must be willing to move to where others are to guide them to where they want to go.

The mind cannot forget what the hands have learned. To fully understand the process, we must engage our hands to enlighten, empower, and encourage the mind.

We learn to walk by falling down. Those most appreciative of standing are those who have been beaten down and, yet, refuse to submit their ideals to the vulgarity of others.

The outward appearance is less important than the inward character. Rather than become copies of societal propaganda, it is imperative to enhance the unique image of who we are.

The Better Way

There is always a better way. What got us here will not take us to where we need to go. Good, Better, Best — Never let us rest, ’til our good is better and our better, best.

The greatest enduring gift of love is a chosen, purposeful effort, often done in the face of fear, to nurture our own growth and the growth of others.

In summary, stewardship is a dynamic focus on home, abundance, and the responsibility to give of ourselves to receive the best of all that the universe has to offer!

In The Game

There is only one way to, really, learn anything — and, that is: hands-on.

It is impossible for the mind to forget what the hands have learned.

Why, then, do we believe someone else has the answers to our questions? And, why do we defer our good judgment to others?

We Are Unique

No one else has our combination of Heredity and Environment. Only we, individually, can encourage our growth.

To do that, it is imperative we get — and, stay — in the game.

Do you know the difference between an Amateur and a Professional? Well, the Amateur practices until they can do something right — the Professional practices until it is impossible for them to do anything wrong.

In fact, the Professional, always, practices. Why?

Amateur vs. Professional

1.) Talk is cheap. Knowing something and doing it are two, entirely, different approaches. Those who can: practice — those who can’t: preach. Those who spin their stories of yesterday will be left in the dust of those who are getting it done, today. What got us here will not take us to where we need to go. The principle is, “A little less talk and a lot more action.” Amateurs will tell you how to do something — Professionals will show you.

2.) No pain — No gain. Easy is hard — Hard is easy. Shortcuts are the surest way to oblivion. There is an order to the Universe. It is obvious when we acknowledge that every worthwhile endeavor begins with a rock-solid foundation. The beginning of every construction project is ugly — it starts with an excavation, a hole in the ground. It requires a whole lot of digging and pounding. Amateurs want the glory of a finish — Professionals seek to serve from beginning to end.

3.) Pink elephants are absurd. Any single negative in an equation forces a negative result. When told, “Don’t think about pink elephants,” what do we do? Bad habits die hard. They don’t go of their own volition — a stake must be driven through the heart of the beast. That stake is sustained, positive, decisive, and committed actions toward the new desire. Mastery of the self is an artistic expression. Amateurs are tethered to the past — Professionals use that vine to swing into the future.

Those who claim to know it all — and, therefore, take it upon themselves to think that they know what is best for us — are dangerous. Arrogance and ignorance are a volatile combination. Regardless of what someone might know up to this present moment, there is always the opportunity to learn more. If… they stay in the game.

The Game

The game always changes. It is the only constant in life. Those on the sidelines are stuck — frozen in that moment of time — when they chose to stop there. Those on the court continue to learn, to get better, to improve, to innovate, and to grow as individuals and teammates. They do common things in uncommon ways — they take the scientific to an art form.

All, because of their love for the game — of Life!

Perfect Imperfections

Think about the person you most admire. Why do you admire them?

Isn’t it because they are calm, cool, and collected? Nothing seems to bother them. They are like a Rock — waters part and go around them. Regardless of the craziness swirling around the situation, they focus like a Laser on the points of meaning.

And — the point on which our heroes focus — “Play the cards you’re dealt.”

Less Than Perfect

Seldom is there the ‘perfect‘ hand of cards. In fact, the greatest ‘sport‘ is in playing the less-than-perfect hand. The adrenalin rush from the courage and skill required to navigate uncertainty trumps the monotony of the sure thing, every time.

Why, then, do we judge ourselves to be less than someone else? Maybe, they are pretty — for a while. Maybe, they are talented — in one thing. Maybe, they are intimidating, in speech, dress, and mannerisms — according to societal trends. Who cares? They are not perfect — and, never will be.

Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

An old farmer lived in a small village with his teenage son. He worked hard in the fields and his meager possessions were limited. The most valuable of his belongings was a workhorse, which he used for tilling his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills, seemingly lost forever.

The man’s neighbors visited and sought to sympathize with the old man over his bad luck. “We are sorry for your bad luck,” they would tell him, shaking their heads in sympathy. The farmer, lifting his hands, gently as if balancing a scale, replied softly, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Two days later, the farmer and his son were working in the fields. The sun was slowly creeping behind the hills in the distance. They caught sight of a horse cresting the mound. Their horse had returned with a herd of other wild horses. The son quickly corralled the horses and the neighbors were in awe of the farmer’s good luck. He responded with the same reply as before, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

The next day, the farmer’s son attempted to tame one of the wild horses. As he rode in the corral, he fell off the horse and broke his leg. As you can imagine, this was believed by all the neighbors to be very bad luck. However, the farmer, once again, replied …  “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Several weeks later, the army commanders entered the village seeking every able-bodied youth they could find to fight in the war. As they came to the old farmer’s home, they had no use for a boy with a broken leg. He was dismissed … “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Who Knows?

And — so, it goes. Who knows?

You can — that’s who.

You can know this — LIFE is a journey to be enjoyed, at each moment. Going back is impossible and the future is uncertain. Accept what is and the game becomes more fun.

So — why not — live in the moment, with all of the ‘imperfections‘ inherent with it.

Let’s stop whining about everything outside of our control and start smiling about the opportunity to play through.

In the game of golf, there’s the general rule of, “Hit it where it lies.”

Good shot? Bad shot? Who knows?

Swing away!

Feedback Three-Step

Circles of Life

Feedback Three-StepBaby’s first step is cause for celebration. Even for us older kids, first steps can be special times of celebration and acknowledgment.

They are, always, the beginning of a journey to discovery. Sometimes we follow the first step with a second. Other times that first step forward is followed by two steps backward.

Regardless of the pattern, we are dancing.

Those who love to dance know about the Two-Step. If we are to dance our way into the hearts, minds, and souls of those about whom we care deeply, maybe, it’s time we learn the Three-Step. It is much more than leading with our good foot – and, then, dragging the other behind. In fact, it has nothing to do with our feet and everything to do with our heads.

Communication Is What The Listener Does

While there are many mediums available for communication, the most popular is — Words. Some of us use many, while other individuals use few. We, all, use them, constantly, to express our thoughts and ideas to others. Our messages are composed of two elements: Content and Context.

Guaranteed — the words I choose and the intent behind them will be heard and understood differently by each person, who receives them. They will be filtered through the education and experience of that person. And, they will mean something different to that individual, depending on the day and their mood.

Since Certified Public Accountants are trained in probabilities, let’s look at the odds of being heard and understood. Setting aside that which is beyond our control (the context within which our message will be received), let’s take a look at the content.

7% Comprehension from Words

A researcher named Mehrabian was interested in how listeners get their information. The results: 55% from the visual component, 38% from the auditory component, and 7% from the language. Our words account for only 7% of comprehension. Have you ever wondered why emails are misunderstood?!Feedback Model

Regardless of how elegantly we Transmit, the logic and emotion of the Receiver are beyond our control. With the first two steps of this communication dance, we have made noise and they have heard the sound. Communication is yet to be accomplished.

The third — and, most important — step is Feedback. The communication circuit is complete, only, when the Receiver is courageous enough to Transmit back what they have heard and understood.

Lights Come On With Closed Circuits

In our daily life, we take for granted closed circuits. We flip the switch and the lights come on. Thus, we have reinforced a truth — Electricity will only flow in a completed circuit. Why then do we insist on wandering around in the dark while refusing to complete our communication circuits? We complete them by giving Feedback.

Circles of LifeWhile there might be legitimate reasons for our inertia, the encouragement is for us to consider the circle of life, itself. Just like the electrical circuit, we are of limited value unless, and until, we complete the circuit.

If we consider the possibility that we are simply wonderful chunks of conduit for the goodness from above to flow through us for the benefit of others, then, it’s logical to envision the lights coming on for ourselves and the rest of the world. We, literally, become lighthouses to guide others through the storms of life. Bright lights make absolutely no noise.

The Sound of Circles

Since all of the words above only contribute 7% to this premise, let’s add the 38% auditory component. By clicking on the “Circles” hyperlink below, we can enjoy sensory delights.

Circles

(Video)
By Sawyer Brown

There’s one around my finger
One around my coffee cup
One around the hands of time
And that big orange ball a comin’ up
There’s one around my eight to five
Four beneath me when I drive
An extra one for overtime, circles
There’ll be one in the hugs around my legs
And one around my waist
And one around the table holdin’ hands and sayin’ grace

I thank God for circles
For you, for me, for family and friends
I thank God for circles
May they go round-and-round and never have to end

There’s one around the block
There’s always one around the bend
Any to and from you go
And back again
Some are green and some are golden
Summer turns to winter cold
And into spring the seasons roll, circles
There’ll be one around the candles
One around the birthday cakes
One around the table holdin’ hands and sayin’ grace

I thank God for circles
For you, for me, for family and friends
I thank God for circles
May they go round-and-round and never have to end

There’s one around the world
That goes around so we can see it all
One around the halo
When we’re called

I thank God for circles
For you, for me, for family and friends
I thank God for circles
May they go round-and-round and never have to end
I thank God for family and circles
May we find and have so many more of them

Trust In The Source

The researcher, Mehrabian wrote about a substantial limitation to his study, “These findings, regarding the relative contribution of the tonal component of a verbal message, can be safely extended, only, to communication situations in which no additional information about the communicator-addressee relationship is available.”

In summary, Listeners derive information from visual, tonal, and other verbal cues. Yet, their understanding is dependent upon a number of other factors, including how well they know the communicator.

Communication Is What The Listener Does

This communicator believes Feedback is a necessary dimension of effective personal growth. It provides for real-time modifications of behavior, and related events, to achieve mutually desired benefits for the participants, which might otherwise be unobtainable, or delayed.

To achieve 100% effectiveness, let’s add the 55% visual component to our circuit of communication. Picture a knight standing at the ready to be of service in your kingdom. He waits for the Feedback that will enhance his efforts to be of greater value to you. If a courageous leader, you will empower him to serve in more effective ways, by offering the Feedback necessary to achieve even greater victories in this our journey, the circle of life!

Coach

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”
John Wooden,
Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach

All We Do Begins With A Thought

To achieve success, there must be: “The Want To” — That’s the thought.
Then, there must be: “The Want To, Do” — That’s the action.

Knowing and Doing are two very different aspects of life. One is passive. The other is active. One is a state of mind. The other is the motion of the body. One without the other is of little value.

Recently, a story about Coach Wooden grazed my consciousness. Then, it began to burrow deep into my soul. Now, that thought has become an action — to share my discovery with you.

From the book Great by Choice is a compelling narrative about Coach Wooden. He started each new college basketball season with the same comment, “We will begin by learning how to tie our shoes.”

Just imagine the freshman players thinking, “Why?!” The seniors eagerly participated in the lesson How to Tie Our Shoes, because they knew, “There was a way to do everything.”

In the words of one player, “By the time the games came along, they just became memorized exhibitions of brilliance.”

That high level of excellence was built — block by block — from the blueprint of Coach John Wooden. It was much more than a game plan. It is a philosophy of life and competition. As timely today, as it was for his century of performance, Coach appropriately named it a Pyramid of Success.

At the heart of everything I know about Coach Wooden, he was respectful of Time and Tone. Practices began and ended like clockwork (Time). He opened the first moments of practice in a quiet voice (Tone). The passion at his core produced Planning, Preparation, and Progress to reach Goals.

All We Do Begins With A Thought

The thought was to encourage the development of their best — from everyone within his sphere of influence (the Goal). The actions were focused on Planning (Pyramid of Success), Preparation (How to Tie Shoes), and Progress (National Championships).

Thought without action is worthless.
Action without thought is dangerous.

Time can be well invested by examining the Tone, at The Official Site of Coach John Wooden: http://www.coachwooden.com/

Be sure to click on Pyramid of Success, at the top of this page. Coach starts his building process, at the lower left corner. Industriousness is the first cornerstone in the foundation of the Pyramid of Success. The second cornerstone, to the far right, is Enthusiasm.

Click on each building block for the rest of the story.

In our daily conversations, with one another, we Talk about these principles. Funny, though, isn’t it? So easy to say — yet, so, very, hard to Do.

Coach simply inspires and encourages us to remember and do.

I Am

What follows I AM follows YOU.

This is a humor Kim moment. Please, read all of this paragraph, act upon it, and, then, continue with the Rest of the Story. Close your eyes and relax. Be the most authentic YOU possible. Finish this sentence, “I am …”

Now, with eyes wide open, write down what that little voice in your head just told you.

Thoughts, Decision, and Action

Is it a Positive or Negative statement? I hope it was Positive. Because, if you look around, our life’s situation is a reflection of that Thought.

I imagine these are some of your Statements:

•  I am Strong and Courageous.
•  I am Kind and Generous.
•  I am Gentle and Forgiving.
•  I am Wise and Persuasive.
•  I am Smart and Funny.

If perchance, a few of you let that little voice in your head (the one that speaks to us constantly) generate a negative statement, then, here is an opportunity. At this moment, we can change the course of our life. Fire that negative rascal and replace the naysayer with a Bold and Confident advisor.

Have you noticed how the World (especially our enemies) wants to stick us with a Label? Their sole purpose for doing so is to Judge us.

However, we can speak boldly and confidently to ourselves, any time we want. And, then, use that motivation as a Measurement in our progress toward who we really are — and want to become.

I Am

Every decision and every action will be supportive of our I AM statement.

You will be like a rock in a stream. The issues and dramas of daily life will part and go around YOU.

Remember, there is only ONE unique creation of YOU.

Be the best YOU possible, according to your gifts and abilities.

I guarantee YOU will love the Results.

Better Business Plan

Blueprint For Success

A seasoned carpenter shared this secret to success: “You must begin — and, begin again.”

For the dreamers among us, the question is: “Where do I begin?”

The purpose of this article is to provide the parameters for a quick analysis of an idea to determine its possibility, and probability, of actionable success. As with any legitimate construction project, we build it on paper, first.

This is our blueprint.

Considerations

Owner Compensation
The concept of beginning here is novel for a Business Plan. Yet, this number will keep our attitude right and provide the Retained Earnings for business expansion. Success principle — Begin with the End in Mind.

Debt Service
Unless adequate funds are available for startup, the early years will include a Banker for a partner. The goal is to buy them out quickly to retain their share of profits, which are paid by our business as Interest.

Taxes
Self-employment, Federal income, and State income taxes must be paid timely. Because of severe penalties (plus interest) for non-compliance, governmental entities are terrible sources of financing.

Overhead
This is the delivery system for providing value to the marketplace. It is everything from the storefront brick-and-mortar (or online presence) to all indirect expenses. It is the price we pay to have a Company.

Direct Costs
Each project and customer will want, and need, something different. The flexibility to “Wow!” them requires additional expenditures. For construction projects, this includes Materials.

Productive Units
All of the above is accomplished by understanding the finite number of units available for distribution. For service enterprises, this will be a reservoir of Hours; for a products company, this will be the capacity of the Shop; and, for an inventory business, this will be the Goods.

Guidance

Formulas:

Net Income = (Owner + Banker) / (100% – Tax Rate)
Value to Customers = Net Income + Overhead
Sales Price = Value to Customers + Direct Costs

Example Variables:

Owner Compensation: $80,000 ~ [For the Family, after taxes]
Debt Service: $40,000 ~ [Loans of $200,000, with 5 Year maturity]
Tax Rate: 40% ~ [S/E 15.3%, FD 20%, ST 4.7%]
Overhead: $144,000 ~ [Ads, Insurance, Rent, Utilities, Etc.]

Solution:

(Owner $80,000 + Banker $40,000) / (100% – 40% Tax Rate)
Is same as: $120,000 / .60 = $200,000 Net Income
$200,000 Net Income + $144,000 Overhead = $344,000 Value

For those providing Services to the marketplace, the final step is to divide Productive Units into the Customer Value. Full-time employment is 2,000 hours per year. Entrepreneurs will work much more than that — with only a percentage actually billable to Customers.

If our Startup Enterprise team can be 86% productive (after allowance for duties of internal and external management) each Employee has an annual reservoir of 1,720 billable hours.

$344,000 Value to Customers / 1,720 Hours = $200 per Hour: Price for Value

Those providing Products, or Inventory, for sale to customers, will factor in the Direct Costs. In fact, they will consider the number of meals (if a restaurant), or suits (if a boutique), as their Productive Units and establish their Pricing, accordingly.

Purpose

Now, step apart from the crowd and consider the most important variable of all:

“What is my passion – the one unique thing about me – for which the world waits?”

The rest of the story from our successful builder, quoted at the beginning of this article, “Find something you love to do and do a lot of it.”

If we are able and willing to tap into that passion and grasp the foundational principles of a Blueprint, we are simply minutes away from A Better Business Plan — and, a new beginning!