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Teens and Horseless Carriages

This post is for a dear friend who, although we were classmates, decided to stay young by having kids later in life. He thinks me surviving teenagers has somehow made me wiser. It has, at least, made me experienced.

His question: Is it a good idea to give a freshly licensed driver a car? Explain.

We could not afford to give our kids a new car when they turned sweet sixteen. It was probably best. Our strategy was to hang on to the old family jalopies for the kids to use. Then, when they were older teens and had matured, we helped them buy a first car. [···]

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Why Small Businesses Succeed: “Know Thy Costs.”

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Heard the joke about the owner who says he loses ten cents on every sale? “How do you stay in business?” he is asked. “Volume.”

All costs are the result of a decision. Small businesses succeed because they give proper focus to knowing and managing costs.

Years ago I worked for a company whose owner, Don, was quite wealthy. I admired Don’s stable of exotic cars and enjoyed my first ride in a new Rolls Royce—his. How did this journey from rags to riches start? Don produced and sold unique, but simple metal artwork out of his garage. His distinctive gift was the ability to create artwork that could be mass-produced with a consistent gross profit margin. [···]

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The Benefits of Smallness

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Small businesses fuel much of the U.S. economy and are the soul of the American dream.

I recently read an article in Inc. magazine that surprised me. It was about employee engagement, an important topic. The surprise was that small startups, immediately known for their fun cultures and engaged teammates, soon enough struggled with their fair share of unmotivated employees. The traditional costume days, Ping-Pong tournaments, and free organic lunches no longer did the trick.  What happened? [···]

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RULES OF THE GAME: Clear tax tips

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Business Lunches

“Tax law, like Congress, works to distance itself from common sense.”

I don’t always eat lunch, but when I do it ‘s tastier when subsidized by the government. Yum! Here is an overview of the rules.

50% of the reasonable cost of business lunches is deductible. (Transporters can deduct 80%*.) If it is appropriate to bill a customer for lunch, you can deduct 100% of the cost and the customer is stuck with the 50% limit. I haven’t done this yet, but you may have a construction contract with travel and meal per diems or some such. [···]

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My Capacity to Love Just Doubled

We have become certifiable lunatics.

 

Mary’s and my second grandchild was born early Tuesday morning, July 29. I had learned a couple of years earlier how amazing and surprising was the love of a grandparent. We had heard tales, rumors, and legends – but when Rivers was born we got it. We became certifiable lunatics with new and powerful feelings. There is something enchanting about the children of your children.

So obvious was our passion for this new life that I think Kristine, our second daughter, might have wondered about our ability to feel the same way about her firstborn, Vivian.

I think all doubts have been laid to rest. Our love for Vivian is absolutely equal to our love for Rivers. It couldn’t be more for it is total. It couldn’t be less for it is a godly attribute shared with grandparents the world over.

So I learned something. As God’s love is without limit, so must humans—made in the image of God and Christ—have the capacity to increase love exponentially.

There is debate about how much brainpower we use. The urban myth is ten percent. Whatever the amount there has to be unused capacity—more for some, less for others—total for politicians. My guess is we only use a small portion of our love capacity.

The secret must be to affix our compassionate eye on one needing to be loved, and the outpouring will come; immediately, magically, and without limit.

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What Might Have Been…

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One vital key to a meaningful life well-lived is to seize, wrestle with, and squeeze the life out of every day for one purpose: to create a better future.
It struck me that I was watching what might have been if things turned out the way I imagined then.

I had a crazy dream last night. I remember it, well, in fragments. My dreams are usually unremembered in the morning. This one has bits that are clear, I reach for the next connecting piece and it alludes me—like grasping for a wisp of cloud. The result is a layout for a short film with storyboards missing, but enough reclaimed to name a theme.

It was long ago and it was now. I was with family now and friends from then—people I used to go to church with and close friends from college. We were all together in a way that is impossible because of our life choices and the events that have shaped and separated us.

It struck me that I was watching what might have been if things turned out the way I imagined then.

There are a couple of lessons we can remember.

First, it is pointless, impractical, and impossible to re-create the past. Foot on the gas, transmission in “D,” eyes glued to the rearview mirror is a recipe for a very short ride. And you will not be aware of the upset and confusion caused until the crash.

Secondly, one vital key to a meaningful life well-lived is to seize, wrestle with, and squeeze the life out of every day for one purpose: to create a better future—for ourselves, those we impact and influence, and generations beyond.

There is a favorite scripture that headlines my personal goal statements:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

And lean not on your own understanding

In all your ways acknowledge Him

And He shall direct your paths. –Proverbs 3:5

The point is not mindless, effortless waiting for a supernatural sign. The point is partnership and the confident assurance that striving righteously will lead to more wise choices than poor ones. (We are, after all, human.)

What might have been… is unimportant. The future you and I create today is everything.

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Are All of These Created Equal?

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As the pop culture icon and celebrated intellectual Madonna is to have said, “Everyone should be entitled to my opinion.”

Many blogs should include a tobacco-like warning: This article looks appealing, but its contents may damage your brain.

Opinions have always been popular, but the Internet Age has catapulted them into rarified public air historically reserved for the famous. Today there is a bull market for Opinions with plenty of buyers and sellers; trading is brisk.

Social media provides an egalitarian platform. Career academicians with multiple terminal degrees and people who were held back in the third grade 12 times and get most of their world news from the National Enquirer get the same invitation—share.

Surely freedom of speech is precious and should be guarded with vigilance. But are all opinions created equal? What if we disagree? The problem is not that we have opinions and want to share them—the problem is the trading value we expect and give.

Access to simple, slick packaging is both boon and bane. It has never been easier to dress up a pig in a fine suit of clothes, brush his hair, whiten his teeth, give him a breath mint, and parade him in front of the whole world like a gentleman dandy. Even the neophyte computer user can produce and publish stylish, image-rich, attractive content that may be absolute bunk.

Many blogs should include a tobacco-like warning: This article looks appealing, but its contents may damage your brain.

It is becoming harder to pick out the expert opinion that comes from someone who has made a career of studying the subject at hand, like a meteorologist. We rightly tend to give their opinions more credence than, say, Grandpa’s bunion pain predicting a tsunami. The dilemma with finding an expert opinion is the surety of finding another one that is 180 degrees diametrically opposite. Sorting out the truth is tricky.

Personal opinions about taste, on the other hand, are never wrong. “I like my steaks medium” becomes problematic only we try to force our personal opinions on others. We should publicize our personal opinions with the understanding that being heard is fair coin for the exchange. We should read personal opinions realizing there is no guarantee they came from a sane person.

Opinions become important when they influence our personal choices. When the issues are complex we tend to get the data we use to draw conclusions from sources we trust. But we have information overload, ambiguity, and conflict.

When studying a matter we should exercise due diligence and remember that all opinions—even our own—are not created equal. Don’t let easy access to information dilute disciplined research.

As the wise sage Ben Franklin wrote:

For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.

But then that’s just his opinion. What’s yours?

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Death of a Level-Five Leader

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The world is largely unaware that it lost an important leader this week. 

 

L. Leroy Neff ended his 90-year race as he deserved—with dignity and surrounded by his devoted children, Larry, Don, and Carol.

I am privileged to know the Neff family because I married into it—sort of. Larry’s wife, Linda, and my wife, Mary, are sisters.

To tell the inspiring tale of Leroy and his wife of over 60 years, Maxine, would take a book. So he wrote an autobiography for his family, which I read with great interest. It is a classic American story of modest beginnings in Oregon, military service, performing as a classically trained cellist, and a life changing call to serve Jesus Christ.

That call led Leroy and Maxine to Southern California where they started a life of service on something less than a shoestring. It wasn’t long before Leroy was ordained a minister and promoted to a series of expanding leadership positions in a fast-growing church organization.

His responsibilities, which ranged from Church Pastor to Treasurer of a worldwide work, took Leroy and Maxine around the globe—several times. They loved to travel almost as much as they loved their family. Leroy was a successful and admired leader.

Why? Was it his flamboyant, charismatic personality? No, Leroy was a quiet leader although he possessed the most beautiful, deep, resonant, and unmistakable speaking voice.  Was it that he was a super-genius, flitting from project to project like a bee on crack? No, Leroy was highly intelligent, but admittedly a plodder who moved in a purposeful straight line until the job was done.

Why? There were, at least, three qualities of character that powered Leroy to continually succeed while many around him blasted off and flamed out.

  1. His integrity, anchored to deep religious convictions, was unimpeachable.
  2. He was utterly faithful, enjoying promotions and suffering setbacks with equanimity.
  3. He was a humble man—period.

 

I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with Mr. Neff after they retired to East Texas and especially after Maxine died some years ago and the lonely times began. Mary and I will miss the great family gatherings at Thanksgiving.

My Dad, Melton, and I will also miss our lunches with him. Just three weeks ago Mary, Carol–then his caregiver, and I shared lunch with Mr. Neff in his home. Although frail, his memory was sharp, his mind was clear, and he still managed a wry riposte to my good-natured teases.

When Lester Leroy Neff died late Tuesday night, the world lost a legitimate level five leader. It was a sad, sad day—the end of an era. Yet, when Christ returns, it will be the beginning of another one; a glorious era for an honest, faithful, humble saint.

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Define irony: most jobs like a proctology exam

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Define irony:

There have never been more books, blogs, articles, tweets, white papers, PDFs, posts, columns, videos, Ted talks, keynote speeches, workshops, webinars, podcasts, seminars, retreats, and courses on leadership.

Yet most people are unhappy with their job and even fewer are engaged in their work.

That’s ironic, don’t you think? So much knowledge—such poor results.

There are many fine definitions about what excellence in leadership means, but it’s a pretty safe bet common themes include unity, teamwork, high performance, and happiness or fulfillment.

My definition:

True leadership—in any context—is helping people reach their full potential while accomplishing important work together.

There, I said it.

Leadership is building great people!

So, given that 62,000 bits on leadership are published every moment, knowledge must be all that is needed to build great people. Right?

Wrong!

Otherwise two-thirds of the American workforce would not be going home each night with a ton of left over energy and thankful to be getting away from a job they can’t afford to lose—but either dislike or are ambivalent about. It’s how we all feel about, say—proctology exams.

That’s it. Perfect metaphor:

Nurse: “Did you find your proctology exam to be inspiring, meaningful, and personally fulfilling?”

Patient: “Well, I would say it is something I know I needed, and it was definitely personal, but in all candor—and I don’t want to hurt the Doctor’s feelings because he seemed intent on being so thorough—I would have rather been doing something else.”

THE Core Competency

Unless your business is run by robots and staffed with drones—much like the DMV (with apologies to the thirteen nice, friendly, caring, helpful DMV employees scattered across the US)—you and every other business on the planet have one thing in common—people!

No matter what else you do, if you want to be best in the world at something you better first be best in the world at building great people.

 “We build great people, who then build great products and services.” –Jack Welch

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