Archive for the "Personal Development" Category

Remarks by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven

Remarks by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven

The following is adapted from the commencement address by Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, at the University of Texas at Austin on May 17.

See Video:  Remarks by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven

The University of Texas slogan is “What starts here changes the world.”

I have to admit—I kinda like it.

“What starts here changes the world.”

Tonight there are almost 8,000 students graduating from UT.

That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com, says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime.

That’s a lot of folks. But if every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people—just 10—then in five generations, 125 years, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.

Eight-hundred million people—think of it: over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world—eight billion people.

If you think it’s hard to change the lives of 10 people, change their lives forever, you’re wrong.

I saw it happen every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A young Army officer makes a decision to go left instead of right down a road in Baghdad and the 10 soldiers with him are saved from close-in ambush.

In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a noncommissioned officer from the Female Engagement Team senses something isn’t right and directs the infantry platoon away from a 500-pound IED, saving the lives of a dozen soldiers.

But, if you think about it, not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children yet unborn were also saved. And their children’s children were saved.

Generations were saved by one decision, by one person.

But changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.

So, what starts here can indeed change the world, but the question is: What will the world look like after you change it?

Well, I am confident that it will look much, much better, but if you will humor this old sailor for just a moment, I have a few suggestions that may help you on your way to a better a world.

And while these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform. It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status. Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward—changing ourselves and the world around us—will apply equally to all.

I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. But it all began when I left UT for Basic SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.

Basic SEAL training is six months of long, torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacle courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.

But, the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships. To me basic SEAL training was a lifetime of challenges crammed into six months.

So, here are lessons I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

1. Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task, mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2. During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy. Every day, your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surfzone and paddle several miles down the coast.

In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in. Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.

For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.

You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help—and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the goodwill of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3. Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class, which started with 150 men, was down to just 42. There were now six boat crews of seven men each.

I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the little guys—the munchkin crew we called them. No one was over about 5-foot-5.

The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African-American, one Polish-American, one Greek-American, one Italian-American and two tough kids from the Midwest.

They out-paddled, out-ran and out-swam all the other boat crews.

The big men in the other boat crews would always make good-natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim. But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the nation and the world, always had the last laugh—swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.

SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.

If you want to change the world, measure people by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4. Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough. Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.

But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle, it just wasn’t good enough. The instructors would find “something” wrong.

For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed, into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand. The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.

There were many students who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right, it was unappreciated.

Those students didn’t make it through training. Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.

Sometimes, no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up as a sugar cookie. It’s just the way life is sometimes.

If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5. Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events. Long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics—something designed to test your mettle.

Every event had standards, times that you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards, your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to a “circus.”

A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit. No one wanted a circus. A circus meant that for that day you didn’t measure up. A circus meant more fatigue, and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult—and more circuses were likely.

But at some time during SEAL training, everyone—everyone—made the circus list. Yet an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Over time those students, who did two hours of extra calisthenics, got stronger and stronger. The pain of the circuses built inner strength—built physical resiliency.

Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.

But if you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6. At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course. The obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including a 10-foot-high wall, a 30-foot cargo net and a barbed-wire crawl, to name a few.

But the most challenging obstacle was the slide for life. It had a three-level, 30-foot tower at one end and a one-level tower at the other. In between was a 200-foot-long rope.

You had to climb the three-tiered tower and, once at the top, you grabbed the rope, swung underneath the rope and pulled yourself hand over hand until you got to the other end.

The record for the obstacle course had stood for years when my class began training in 1977. The record seemed unbeatable until one day a student decided to go down the slide for life—head-first. Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the top of the rope and thrust himself forward.

It was a dangerous move—seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training. Without hesitation, the student slid down the rope, perilously fast. Instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.

If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head-first.

7. During the land-warfare phase of training, the students are flown out to San Clemente Island near San Diego. The waters off San Clemente are a breeding ground for great white sharks. To pass SEAL training, there are a series of long swims that must be completed. One is the night swim.

Before the swim, the instructors joyfully brief the trainees on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters off San Clemente. The instructors assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark—at least not recently.

But, you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position, stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you, then summon up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away.

There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.

So, if you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8. As Navy SEALs, one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. We practiced this technique extensively during basic training. The ship-attack mission is where a pair of SEAL divers is dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swims well over 2 miles—underwater—using nothing but a depth gauge and a compass to get to their target.

During the entire swim, even well below the surface, there is some light that comes through. It is comforting to know that there is open water above you. But as you approach the ship, which is tied to a pier, the light begins to fade. The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight, it blocks the surrounding street lamps, it blocks all ambient light.

To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel—the centerline and the deepest part of the ship. This is your objective. But the keel is also the darkest part of the ship, where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, where the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening and where it is easy to get disoriented and fail.

Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission, is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

9. The ninth week of SEAL training is referred to as Hell Week. It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and one special day at the Mud Flats. The Mud Flats are an area between San Diego and Tijuana where the water runs off and creates the Tijuana slues—a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you.

It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing-cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure from the instructors to quit.

As the sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class, having committed some “egregious infraction of the rules” was ordered into the mud. The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit—just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.

Looking around the mud flat, it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up—eight more hours of bone-chilling cold. The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything. And then, one voice began to echo through the night—one voice raised in song.

The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two, and two became three, and before long everyone in the class was singing.

We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well. The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing—but the singing persisted. And somehow, the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.

If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan named Malala—can change the world by giving people hope.

So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10. Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see.

All you have to do to quit is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT—and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell.

If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

To the graduating class of 2014, you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life. Moments away from starting to change the world—for the better.

It will not be easy.

But start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here will indeed have changed the world, for the better.

The Courageous Rosa Parks

Rosa Park and Rev. Martin Luther King

Rosa Park and Rev. Martin Luther King

Most historians date the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States to December 1, 1955.  That was the day when an unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger.

This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.

Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama to James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona McCauley, a teacher. At the age of two she moved to her grandparents’ farm in Pine Level, Alabama with her mother and younger brother, Sylvester.

At the age of 11 she enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private school founded by liberal-minded women from the northern United States.

The school’s philosophy of self-worth was consistent with Leona McCauley’s advice to “take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few they were.”

Opportunities were few indeed. “Back then,” Mrs. Parks recalled in an interview, “we didn’t have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival, of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.”

In the same interview, she cited her lifelong acquaintance with fear as the reason for her relative fearlessness in deciding to appeal her conviction during the bus boycott. “I didn’t have any special fear,” she said. “It was more of a relief to know that I wasn’t alone.”

After attending Alabama State Teachers College, the young Rosa settled in Montgomery, with her husband, Raymond Parks. The couple joined the local chapter of the NAACP and worked quietly for many years to improve the lot of African-Americans in the segregated south.

“I worked on numerous cases with the NAACP,” Mrs. Parks recalled, “but we did not get the publicity. There were cases of flogging, peonage, murder, and rape. We didn’t seem to have too many successes. It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be, and to let it be known that we did not wish to continue being second-class citizens.”

The bus incident led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by the young pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The association called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company. The boycott lasted 382 days and brought Mrs. Parks, Dr. King, and their cause to the attention of the world.  A Supreme Court Decision struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Mrs. Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.

In 1957, Mrs. Parks and her husband moved to Detroit, Michigan where Mrs. Parks served on the staff of U.S. Representative John Conyers.  The Southern Christian Leadership Council established an annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award in her honor.

After the death of her husband in 1977, Mrs. Parks founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. The Institute sponsors an annual summer program for teenagers called Pathways to Freedom. The young people tour the country in buses, under adult supervision, learning the history of their country and of the civil rights movement.

President Clinton presented Rosa Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. She received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

Mrs. Parks spent her last years living quietly in Detroit, where she died in 2005 at the age of 92.

After her death, her casket was placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol for two days, so the nation could pay its respects to the woman whose courage had changed the lives of so many. She is the only woman and second African American in American history to lie in state at the Capitol, an honor usually reserved for Presidents of the United States.

How Warren Buffett Plans to Profit from the U.S. Oil Boom

Oil and GasThe United States produced more crude oil than it imported in October for the first time in almost 20 years, the federal Energy Information Administration announced last week.

The U.S. also produced more oil in September than it has in any one-month period over the last 24 years, partially as a result of the rise of hydraulic fracturing, and the country is importing less than it has in 17 years.

It’s no surprise then that Warren Buffett just reported his third quarter portfolio update and he, or one of his recently hired fund managers Todd Combs or Ted Weschler, reported holding a single new stock in the third quarter:  Exxon Mobil Corporation.

The size of the Exxon holding suggests that it was a Buffett purchase.

There are collectively 43 stocks in Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio, which is valued at $92.04 billion. Exxon joins a group of other oil and gas stocks in Buffett’s portfolio: National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NOV), Phillips 66 (PSX), Suncor Energy Inc. (SU) and ConocoPhillips (COP).  In total, energy stocks comprise 7.9% of its total.

Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM)

Berkshire reported owning Exxon Mobil in the third quarter in an amended filing, but actually first bought the stock in the second quarter, without filing, and hid the fact until now. In the second quarter he bought 31,244,110 shares. In the third, it added 8,845,261. The average share prices for the two quarters were both $90.

The Exxon Mobil stake has a 3.7% portfolio weight and represents 0.91% of the $407 billion market cap company’s shares outstanding.

The most noteworthy change Warren Buffett made to Berkshire’s portfolio is the addition of a sizable new position – 40.1 million shares valued at $3.4 billion — in energy super major ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM).  In fact, Buffett constituted roughly three-quarters of the position in the second quarter and obtained confidential treatment from the SEC in his previous filing as he continued to build the position.

In many ways, ExxonMobil is an obvious choice for Berkshire’s portfolio; here are three reasons Buffett selected it:

It’s just plain cheap

At 11.8 times estimated earnings per share for the next 12 months, ExxonMobil shares trade at a 23% discount to the S&P 500’s forward earnings multiple; meanwhile, it pays a 2.7% dividend yield against just 2% for the index. Furthermore, the valuation was lower when Buffett was building his position — the stock’s average forward earnings multiple was 11.3 in the second quarter and just 10.8 in the third quarter — the sort of multiples that ought to generate some interest when they are associated with one of the best managed, most profitable companies in the world.

ExxonMobil is the second-largest company in the world by market value

The reported value of Berkshire’s stock holdings per today’s filing is a staggering $92 billion. In addition, Berkshire generates a flood of cash on a permanent basis that Buffett must attempt to allocate profitably. (Berkshire’s operating cash flow for the first nine months of 2013 was $20.7 billion.)

As such, when it comes to publicly traded stocks, Buffett can’t waste his time on minnows; he needs to focus exclusively on hooking the largest groupers in the corporate ocean. With a market value of $407 billion, ExxonMobil — the world’s second most valuable company — is just such a catch. ExxonMobil’s size and liquidity enabled Buffett to make it his largest new position since he put more than $10 billion to work in another mega cap issue, IBM, in 2011.

ExxonMobil has longevity

Warren Buffett will only invest in businesses that have genuine staying power; for a long-term investor with a multigenerational time horizon, permanence is a very attractive quality.

Buffett’s confident that ExxonMobil shares that characteristic. We know this because in his 2011 shareholder letter, he argued against buying gold by comparing the far-in-the-future value of all the world’s existing gold stock in the world and a hypothetical portfolio of productive assets with the same current value made up of “all U.S. cropland…, plus 16 ExxonMobils.” In the conclusion of his argument, he writes:

A century from now… ExxonMobil will probably have delivered trillions of dollars in dividends to its owners and will also hold assets worth many more trillions…

A century is a long time, but there is every reason to believe ExxonMobil will be churning out gobs of cash — and returning it to shareholders — for the next several decades. That’s not a bad start for a buy-and-hold investor, particularly when it is bought at the right price.

One of My Favorite Books

Think-and-Grow-RichNovember 8th was the anniversary of the death of  Napoleon Hill who has inspired more people to become successful than any other person in history, including me.

His classic book Think and Grow Rich is considered the greatest self-improvement book of all time, with more than 70 million copies sold worldwide.  It’s helped millions of people to become successful, and you too can benefit from its lessons by listening to the free audio version or by reading it here.

Lionel Sosa was chosen by the Napoleon Hill Foundation to write Think and Grow Rich:  A Latino Choice.   Lionel chose 13 Latino stories to illustrate the 13 principles that Napoleon Hill synthesized from twenty years of interviews and study of the success philosophy of the richest men at the turn of the 20th century:  Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, King Gillette, John D. Rockefeller, Charles M. Schwab, William Wrigley Jr., F.W. Woolworth, and many others.

Lionel chose me to illustrate the first principle, which is to “Develop a Definite Major Purpose”.  Hill’s research showed that “there is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”  Success towards achieving your goals in life begins with knowing where you are going.  Hill knew that “without a definite major purpose, you are as helpless as a ship without a compass.”

As the first person to illustrate and write about the “law of attraction” which was copied and made famous recently by the book and movie The Secret, Napoleon Hill stated that:

Any dominating idea, plan, or purpose held in your conscious mind through repeated effort and emotionalized by a burning desire for its realization is taken over by the subconscious and acted upon through whatever natural and logical means may be available.  

 The Life of Napoleon Hill

Oliver Napoleon Hill was born in Wise County, Va., on Oct. 26, 1883. For young Napoleon, the wealthy industrialists he came to admire in later years were far removed from this primitive land where poverty, illiteracy and superstition reigned.

Nap, as he was called, was 10 when his mother passed away, leaving his father to care for him and his brother. James Hill was ill-equipped as a single parent and had difficulty in taming his son’s increasingly wild nature.  Napoleon was enamored with the outlaw Jesse James, carried a six-shooter on his hip and went about the county terrorizing its citizens.

But James Hill soon remarried, and his new wife Martha quickly established herself as a force in the two-room log cabin.  Napoleon, still pained from the loss of his mother, found a guiding light.  Martha saw the boy’s potential and encouraged him.  She told him he wasn’t a bad boy, and that he just needed to direct his energy toward accomplishing something worthwhile.  She suggested he use his overactive imagination to become a writer.

When he welcomed the idea, the well-educated Martha spent the next year tutoring him. She promised to buy him a typewriter if he gave up his six-shooter. “If you become as good with a typewriter as you are with that gun,” she said, “you may become rich and famous and known throughout the world.” Napoleon agreed to the deal.

At fifteen, he landed a position as a freelance reporter for a group of rural newspapers, followed a few years later by a job with Bob Taylor’s Magazine, a popular periodical that offered advice on achieving power and wealth.

How Andrew Carnegie Inspired Him

His first major interview was with the then richest man in America—73-year-old Pittsburgh steel magnate Andrew Carnegie—and that interview changed his life.  Hill intently listened as Carnegie recounted his extraordinary accomplishments and proffered his theories on personal achievement in the book The Wisdom of Andrew Carnegie as Told to Napoleon Hill.

“It’s a shame that each new generation must find the way to success by trial and error when the principles are really clear-cut,” Carnegie told him.  What the world needed, Carnegie suggested, was a philosophy of achievement, a compilation of success principles from the country’s greatest businessmen and leaders to show the commonality of their stories, and serve as inspiration and enlightenment to those wanting more in life.

He issued a challenge to Hill:  Commit the next 20 years, without compensation, to documenting and recording such a philosophy of success, and he would introduce him to the wealthiest and most successful men of the time. Hill jumped at the opportunity.

And so, for the next two decades, between numerous business ventures and starting a family, Hill went about fulfilling the pledge.  He met with Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, King Gillette and other contemporary giants. Carnegie believed that “definiteness of purpose” was the starting point for all success—that “the man who knows exactly what he wants… has no difficulty in believing in his own ability to succeed.”  The concept became the foundation for Hill’s later writing and professional focus.

Think and Grow Rich

After numerous rejections, Connecticut publisher Andrew Pelton agreed to print the book.

Hill’s eight-volume Law of Success debuted on March 26, 1928, offering the collective wisdom of the greatest achievers of the previous fifty years.  His work became a sensation.

The sheer size of Law of Success is daunting, running to 800 to 1000 pages depending on the edition.  Originally designed and produced in a 16 part series, each volume or chapter was substantial yet accessible.

In March 1937, he significantly reduced the book to about 200 pages, and changed the named to Think and Grow Rich – the first three print runs, increasing each time in numbers, came in rapid succession and all sold out, and it continues to sell today.

Here is an original two hour video of Napoleon Hill produced in 1937 going over the concepts of the book.

 

Ford CEO Alan Mulally

Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally

Automaker Ford was losing billions of dollars when Alan Mulally took the wheel in 2006.

Here, in an interview conducted by New York based Rik Kirkland, senior managing editor of McKinsey Publishing, Mulally reflects on his leadership style and his efforts to turn around the organization.

When Alan Mulally was named president and CEO of Ford, in 2006, the famous American automaker was on the brink of bankruptcy. The company was preparing to post the biggest annual loss in its 103-year history—$12.7 billion.

Seven years later, Mulally is widely seen as the man behind one of the most impressive corporate turnarounds in history. Ford has posted an annual profit every year since 2009, its stock price has rebounded, and a new corporate culture has transformed the way the organization works. In an interview with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland, Mulally reflects on his approach to leading a large global organization, the process by which Ford seeks to understand the global business context, the importance of managing your energy (and not just your time), and why he thinks “One Ford” is more than just a catchphrase.

McKinsey: How would you describe your leadership style?

Alan Mulally: At the most fundamental level, it is an honor to serve—at whatever type or size of organization you are privileged to lead, whether it is a for-profit or nonprofit. It is an honor to serve. Starting from that foundation, it is important to have a compelling vision and a comprehensive plan. Positiveleadership—conveying the idea that there is always a way forward—is so important, because that is what you are here for—to figure out how to move the organization forward. Critical to doing that is reinforcing the idea that everyone is included. Everyone is part of the team and everyone’s contribution is respected, so everyone should participate. When people feel accountable and included, it is more fun. It is just more rewarding to do things in a supportive environment.

Say, for example, an employee decides to stop production on a vehicle for some reason. In the past at Ford, someone would have jumped all over them: “What are you doing? How did this happen?” It is actually much more productive to say, “What can we do to help you out?” Because if you have consistency of purpose across your entire organization and you have nurtured an environment in which people want to help each other succeed, the problem will be fixed quickly. So it is important to create a safe environment for people to have an honest dialogue, especially when things go wrong.

A big part of leadership is being authentic to who you are, thinking about what you really believe in and behaving accordingly. At Ford, we have a card with our business plan on one side and the behaviors we expect listed on the other. It is the result of 43 years of doing this.

McKinsey: There have been major changes in the external environment during your long career. How have those affected the way you lead?

Alan Mulally: People often say that the world is becoming more volatile and more complex, that there are exponentially more “moving parts.” The world has always been a complicated and volatile place—it is just that we now have the tools to recognize it, to try to make sense of it, and to respond to it. That can make the process of understanding the broader environment in which we operate feel more complicated. Understanding what is happening in the world has always been a critical part of doing business at Ford. It should be a critical part of doing business anywhere.

McKinsey: How do you make sure Ford understands the larger context?

Alan Mulally: Every week we have a Business Plan Review meeting, or BPR. Our entire global leadership team, every business leader, every functional leader, attends either remotely or in person. We talk about the worldwide business environment at that moment—things like the economy, the energy and technology sectors, global labor, government relations, demographic trends, what our competitors are doing, what is going on with our customers. Of course, we are all out there all the time as part of our jobs, going around the world. The BPR process is the foundation. It provides a fantastic window on the world—the whole team knows everything that is going on.

Then we take it a step further and discuss how those trends are likely to evolve. Looking ahead is critical. We talk about more than what our customers value right now. We talk about the forces in the world that are going to shape what they will value in the future.

Take energy, for example. While we believe petroleum is going to be around for a long time, it is going to cost more and take more time to bring to the market. So we are going to pay more for energy. Beyond that, we believe there is a social consciousness that is developing where people really want to consider alternative energy sources that are more sustainable and good for the planet. So, for every market in the world, we are pushing harder to develop vehicles that range from gasoline versions to diesel, natural gas, hybrid-electric and all-electric ones. We also see a future for hydrogen. That technology roadmap is informed by our clear point of view about where the world is going.

McKinsey: Tell me more about how this process translates into everyday decisions.

Alan Mulally: As part of the BPR, we look closely at our plan in the context of the risks and opportunities presented by the current and future business environment. The BPR meeting is a kind of status check. It is both a strategic plan and a relentless implementation plan. So we look at every element of the income statement and the balance sheet. As new information emerges, we incorporate it right into the plan.

So, for example, discretionary income in the Asia-Pacific region is increasing, and many economies are reaching the takeoff stage for our industry, as new car buyers enter the market. We have used extensive data and research to determine the factors that will influence their purchasing decisions, and we have a specific plan in place to capture those consumers by providing a complete family of best-in-class vehicles. We regularly go over that data to see if anything has changed. If the facts underpinning the plan have changed, our plan has to change as well. The data tell us how we are doing, and in that sense, the data set you free, which is pretty cool.

McKinsey: And how does the leadership style you described translate into your day-to-day work?

Alan Mulally: The first thing a leader does is facilitate connections between the organization and the outside world. You can only grow value and profits by 10 to 12 percent a year, which is what great companies do, if you satisfy customers better than the competition. Second, leaders hold themselves and their teams accountable for deciding, “What business are we in? What is the deep consumer need we are uniquely positioned to satisfy?” And finally, leaders are responsible for trying to articulate and model a set of behaviors.

One of the biggest parts of the leader’s job is reinforcing the processes we are using to meet our goals. Again, that is where the BPR comes in. It is more than a way of asking, “How are we doing?” It is asking, “How are we doing against the plan? What are the areas that need special attention? And then all through the year, what is our plan to improve our performance in the following year?”

McKinsey: You’re widely credited with reshaping the culture at Ford. What’s different now?

Alan Mulally: At the heart of our culture is the One Ford plan, which is essentially our vision for the organization and its mission. And at the heart of the One Ford plan is the phrase “One Team.” Those are more than just words. We really expect our colleagues to model certain behaviors. People here really are committed to the enterprise and to each other. They are working for more than themselves. We are a global company, so we really have to stay focused on the work. There are so many people around the world involved in our daily operations that it has to be about more than a single person—it truly has to be about the business. Some prefer to work in a different way. Ultimately, they will either adopt the Ford culture, or they will leave.

McKinsey: Running large companies is demanding, and you’ve been at this game a long time. How do you maintain your mental and physical stamina?

Alan Mulally: Everybody always talks about how you need to manage your time. You need to manage your energy as well. You first have to ask, “What gives me energy?” There can be lots of sources: your family, exercise, your spiritual well-being. Try to combine those, along with your work demands, into one integrated calendar so that everything is built into your lifestyle. You can get beyond having to tell yourself, “OK, I’m going to have my family life next year in August, on vacation.” Instead, jot down what is really important to you, see if you have allocated time for it, and adjust the calendar if necessary. In our house, we had a family meeting every week—the family BPR—where we reviewed what we needed to do and the support required to get us through the week. It is another kind of process step, and a really important one.

McKinsey: One last question: Henry Ford had a vision. But the world, and the transportation industry, is dramatically different now. Has the Ford vision changed?

Alan Mulally: Henry Ford understood that the desire to move—to have freedom of mobility—is enduring and universal. As economies grow, and even as human beings grow, the first thing they want to do is move. It is a powerful vision—opening up the world’s highways so that everyone can have freedom of mobility, and can access the opportunities for growth that those experiences can offer.

The vision will remain constant, while our role in realizing that vision might evolve. There are tremendous opportunities for safe and efficient transportation in the future— in rapid and public transportation, for example. So we might be part of connecting different modes of transportation—bicycles and waterways and cars and buses and subways—all as part of the vision of enabling movement and bringing people together. Ford can use technology and innovation to deliver products and services that enable that experience at the most fundamental level. That is what we do.

About the authors

Alan Mulally is president and CEO of Ford Motor Company. This interview was conducted by Rik Kirkland, senior managing editor of McKinsey Publishing, who is based in McKinsey’s New York office.

by Elaine ChavagnonThis article appeared on Nov. 4, 2013 in Family Wealth Report, and it was written by London based reporter Elaine Chavagnon, based on an interview she did with me last week.

Tiger 21, the peer-to-peer network for high net worth investors, is in expansion mode in Florida after unveiling a second group in Miami in September and currently preparing for the launch of a third in Palm Beach next month.

But besides tapping the expertise of wealthy individuals and families locally, the New York-headquartered organization is looking to deepen its footprint in the Sunshine State by drawing on the strong ties it has with Latin America, Charles Garcia, chair of the Florida group, told Family Wealth Report. 

One of the main factors linking Florida – which has for a while been regarded as a wealth management “hotspot” – to Latin America is the fact that 23 per cent of the state’s 19.3 million inhabitants are of Hispanic or Latino origin, compared to a US average of 16.9 per cent (source: 2012 US Census data). The US also exports 2.6 times as much to Latin America as it does to China, with the continent being Florida’s largest trading partner.

At the same time, some 15,000 Latin Americans are ultra-high net worth individuals representing at least $2.3 trillion in wealth, according to recent estimates. Indeed, last week Garcia met with Guillermo Romo, a Tiger 21 member in San Diego, CA, who is recommending Latin American individuals to Garcia he thinks would be good members.

“Romo confirmed that a lot of Mexican UHNW families are choosing Miami over Houston, TX, Dallas, TX, San Diego, CA, and Los Angeles, CA,” Garcia said.

And, in what Garcia views as an early sign that the economy in Florida is getting stronger – fueled in part by LatAm investors – the real estate market has improved considerably in recent time.

He said: “While in 2008/9 there were 68,000 empty apartments, all of that inventory has now gone and people are progressively building again. Some of that is because there are a lot of very wealthy Latin Americans – from countries like Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela – that have invested heavily into real estate in Miami.”

LatAm focus

Having recently added several new Miami members from Latin America, Garcia said he has now decided to open the doors to LatAm families. Tiger’s Miami group includes seven Hispanics, representing about 33 per cent of these individuals (these are not Latin Americans, but US citizens of Hispanic descent or “Hispanic Americans.”)

“If you talk to the large wealth managers in South Florida, some of them are 100 per cent managing wealth from LatAm families. Others are managing money from South Florida families mostly, while others have more of a national practice,” Garcia said.

“I’m starting to invite people from Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru; I have someone from Venezuela and the Caribbean. It gives us a better outlook as to what is going on in those countries,” he said. (Likewise, part of the reason Latin Americans want to join Tiger is because they want insights as to what’s going on in the US.)

However, the type of peer-to-peer experience offered by Tiger is “very unusual” for Latin Americans, Garcia said, as they’re culturally not as open about their finances as other members are perhaps used to.

“People often joke that everyone has three books: the book you show the government, the book you show your wife, and the book with the real numbers. Disclosing information to other Tiger members – even though it’s confidential – is very tough.”

Garcia added that he’s thinking of creating a Miami-based group comprised primarily of Latin Americans, or at least half Latin Americans and half US members. (The idea would be to have around six meetings in Miami, and then have about six in LatAm.)

“I’m also trying to recruit women, as there are some very prominent LatAm business women I’ve already spoken to whom I think would make excellent members,” he said.

About Tiger

By way of background, Tiger 21 is an acronym for The Investment Group for Enhanced Results in the 21st Century and its members collectively manage over $20 billion in total assets.

The organization has 225 members overall, 85 of which are based in New York; 40 in Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal), and then there are around 100 across Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco, CA, San Diego, CA, Miami, FL, Washington, DC, and Dallas, TX.

Members are typically entrepreneurs, chief executives, inventors and other senior executives with backgrounds in financial services, real estate, industrial and consumer goods, legal services, entertainment and medicine.

The groups meet monthly to share investment ideas and experiences on a range of wealth-related issues (Garcia said 50 per cent of the meetings are focused on investments and the other half are focused on business, personal or family issues). Members also have access to investment opportunities including private equity, real estate and hedge funds.

“I think it’s interesting that when people accumulate a lot of wealth, they have a certain feeling of isolation,” Garcia said.

“When you have sold a business, for example, you might have a lot of money, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a good investor. The same skills that made you a good business person actually can be counter-productive in terms of managing your wealth.”

Growth

Garcia believes that, in order for Tiger to grow, the organization needs to recruit strong chairs that know enough about the financial markets, how to facilitate meetings and, above all, how to recruit.

Even though most of Tiger’s growth comes from member referrals, a lot of time goes into bringing new members on board, with the ultimate decision resting in the hands of the group in question.

“There is interest in opening groups in Atlanta, GA, and Chicago, IL, but you need to find the right person first,” Garcia said.

“One of the things I’ve been doing is interfacing with money managers and talking to them about Tiger – I met one earlier this week and they have already made three referrals to me. They have to understand that Tiger doesn’t compete with them; an average Tiger member already has three wealth advisors.”

Garcia said he aims to take the number South Florida members from 21 to between 40 and 50 by the end of next year.

# # #

TIGER 21 members focus not only on improving their investment acumen, but also on leveraging the power of their wealth and networks for philanthropy, business opportunities, estate planning, and raising socially responsible children.  TIGER 21’s success is built upon the willingness of members to share their best thinking, experience, curiosity, and vast networks with their fellow group members, as well as the entire TIGER 21 community.  If you are interested in being part of the TIGER 21 South Florida chapter please call Charles Garcia at 561-703-2631 or by email to Charles.Garcia@tiger21.com; if you live in another part of the country call Harley Frank, Director of Membership at (212) 584-0222 or Harley.Frank@tiger21.com.

YPO (Young President Organization) and Vistage are global peer-to-peer groups that help chief executives become better leaders, solve their business challenges, and get better results. Both groups were started in the 1950s and combined have nearly 40,000 members in hundreds of countries.

I’ve been a long time member of both organizations, and always made better business decisions when I shared sensitive information with this group of trusted advisers who gave me invaluable feedback.

What I like about peer-to-peer groups is that it reinforces the fact that you can’t do it alone.

We often try to, imagining that we can see and know the things we need to know without the discerning eye of an outside point of view. I think it’s easy to get off track. Most of us know what our purpose is or what we would like our legacy to be, but we are constantly pressured from external sources to deviate from it. Or we are seduced by extrinsic rewards like money, power, and recognition that cause us to detour from being our authentic selves.

It’s much easier to just keep on doing what we are doing, and say to ourselves that — obviously — we are doing what we are doing because it makes us happy.

And that’s what drew me to “The Investment Group for Enhanced Results in the 21st Century”, better known as TIGER 21 — the premier peer-to-peer network for ultra-high-net-worth investors. TIGER 21’s over 220 members collectively manage more than $20 billion in investable assets.

TIGER 21 members, who have risen to exceptional heights within corporations or are entrepreneurs and have built and sold successful businesses, join TIGER 21 because they recognize these same business skills rarely translate into successfully managing one’s personal assets.

Founded in 1999, TIGER 21 has groups in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Washington D.C., Dallas, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. It plans to launch a group in Palm Beach on December 5, 2013, and in Chicago and Atlanta by March 2014.

Members, who are carefully vetted with background and other checks, must have at least $10 million in investable net worth, and the average member has a $75 million net worth.

The members focus not only on improving their investment acumen, but also on leveraging the power of their wealth and networks for philanthropy, business opportunities, estate planning, and raising socially responsible children.

TIGER 21’s success is built upon the willingness of members to share their best thinking, experience, curiosity, and vast networks with their fellow group members, as well as the entire TIGER 21 community.

The core of the TIGER 21 experience is what occurs in group meetings, which are completely confidential and chaired by highly successful business leaders who facilitate the meetings. TIGER 21 meetings provide a unique forum for candid discussions and peer-to-peer learning among individuals facing the challenges and opportunities of managing their wealth and their daily lives. Members sharpen their investment acumen through critique and coaching, as well as exploring common issues of wealth preservation, estate planning and family dynamics.

The range of expertise and investment styles shared in a confidential and intimate environment of trust and transparency, offers members unique insights and immeasurable value not found anywhere else.

Members’ ages vary significantly. From young professionals in their early thirties to active and retired business owners in their eighties, the diversity of age ranges contributes significantly to the TIGER 21 learning environment.

Members also enjoy a very exclusive concierge service to help them with their travel, lodging, and entertainment, as well as purchases of cars, jewelry, art, insurance and other products and services.

When individuals join TIGER 21, they are encouraged to attend meetings in other cities to expand their relationships, as well as to attend the annual three day conference with their families where they can meet the other TIGER 21 members and a host of top rated resources oriented towards investments and the issues and opportunities facing ultra-high net worth families.

In this short video a longtime TIGER 21 member who rose to become Chairman of Fleet Securities, Inc. after Fleet Bank acquired Quick and Reilly Group, and that has relied on his group members to make key decision in his life.

And then there is the retired Vice Chairman of CIBC World Markets, who is also been a longtime TIGER 21 member and who describes why this peer-to-peer experience is such an important part of his life.

What’s clear is that aside from sharpening their investment acumen, they also meet as peers to discuss the important questions of their lives and to support each other during difficult times. They encourage each other to make the necessary course corrections to avoid the avoidable problems we all can get ourselves into.

Save us from ourselves so to speak.

Jessica Landeros and her husband, Casey, live outside Milwaukee with their two young children.   She is currently writing her memoir, UNIDENTIFIED FIGHTING OBJECT: How One Woman Changed Combat, and How Combat Changed Her

Jessica Landeros and her husband, Casey, live outside Milwaukee with their two young children. She is currently writing her memoir, UNIDENTIFIED FIGHTING OBJECT: How One Woman Changed Combat, and How Combat Changed Her

When Jessica Landeros raised her right hand and joined the Navy at age nineteen  following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she had no idea she would become a three-tour combat veteran, a wounded warrior, and a pioneer for equality. The first American woman to serve in combat during the Second Battle of Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, Landeros helped pave the way for the recent decision to officially allow women on the front lines in all wars beginning in 2016.

As part of a construction battalion tasked with building bases and other infrastructure in a military theater, five-foot-two, 100-pound Landeros was tapped for two stereotypical unfeminine jobs:  plumber and convoy machine gunner. Embedded for months at a time in places most people only read about – often as the only Western woman among hundreds of men – she witnessed countless acts of heroism and leadership. But one day during her final deployment, Landeros herself had to step up and lead in the line of fire.

Part of Landeros’ team’s job was providing nighttime security escorts for supply vehicles and personnel throughout the perilous Al Anbar Province. But one summer day in 2006, the team was assigned daytime security detail for a crew repairing a critical road damaged by bombs. Three hours into the mission, a loud explosion and a plume of black smoke erupted less than twenty- five meters from Landeros’ vehicle, where she was manning her turret gun.

“I jerked my head around in time to see a Hum-V tire reach its apex at fifteen feet skyward,” she recalls. “Then I saw bodies writhing in the sand like fish out of water; two teammates had been hit.  One of them was pulling a knee to his chin; the other was flailing as though his whole body was suffering at once.  Even today I can’t drown out their screams.  I felt my chest tighten as I flashed back to an earlier deployment when one of my teammates, my friend, lost his life to a mortar round.  But I quickly snapped back to reality and forced myself to look away from my fallen colleagues and remember my mission: provide security for the road workers and now for the wounded and the medics who were moving them to safety.  I grabbed my radio and shouted to the gunners to keep their sector of fire.”

Having successfully conducted her life “Mission First” during her previous two combat tours, Landeros understood the weight of her demeanor at this critical moment. She had recently transferred to this battalion of 625 personnel – none of whom had experience in the region.  As potshots from AK-47s came in from the field, Landeros suddenly realized that the guys inside her truck had not moved since the commotion started.  She looked down to find three frozen, wide-eyed men just beginning to thaw. She knew they needed to be engaged to stay safe and sane.

Landeros shook one by the shoulder and asked him to man the gun. He nodded resolutely and moved into position. Then she suggested that the second teammate help move equipment from the downed truck to their vehicle for safekeeping. He took off eagerly.  She turned to the third.

“Ryan, were the guys still moving when they were hauled off?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yeah.”

“That’s good,” Landeros replied. “A moving person is a living person. They’ll be okay. Hurry, make room for their equipment.”

It didn’t take long for the men to complete Landeros’ petty assignments, and she soon noticed that the distractions were quickly wearing off; they were slipping into the dangerous territory of their own dark thoughts. She knew from experience that it was too soon for them to let their emotions take hold. If they were going to fulfill their mission, she needed them to stay in the moment and not become numbed by grief or fear.

“So I did what any smart woman would do:  I appealed to their machismo,” Landeros said.  “I reminded them how scared the poor road workers were, and how we were able to handle it because we were used to this stuff.  I convinced them it was our responsibility to remain calm and in control, because the workers were terrified.  And it worked.  You could literally see their chests swell and their focus return. That was all it took to occupy them until we made it safely back to Camp Fallujah a few hours later.”

Anyone who has been in the military will tell you that one of the first things you learn in boot camp is that the mission is everything.  Without it, people are left to flounder – and ultimately to fail.  However, as Landeros’ experience demonstrates, missions are more than just a set of objectives.  A mission cannot be accomplished without people, and people cannot work to full capacity if they are not tasked in a way that challenges them and channels their strengths.

As a woman on the front line, Jessica is the embodiment of an extraordinarily powerful leadership trait:  the ability, despite societal and historical barriers, to articulate the mission and instill in others the passion to get the job done. It is that ability to issue the challenge and set the stage for its successful completion that is the mark of a true leader – a leader like Jessica Landeros.

Nelson Mandela: Leading with Dignity

Last week’s footage of a dazed and frail-looking 94-year-old Nelson Mandela surrounded by laughing politicians in his living room was condemned on social media as an undignified public relations stunt.

South African President Jacob Zuma and his cronies were criticized for exploiting the Mandela brand as they gear up for the upcoming election.  “Mandela survived 27 years in prison only to become a prisoner of the ANC marketing machine,” said one South African on Twitter.

President Zuma insists this was a sincere effort to show the world that the ailing leader is still alive.

Clearly, Mandela’s health is deteriorating.  He’s been hospitalized three times in the past four months for a recurring lung infection.  Each time, we hold our collective breath as we continue to reflect on his life story.

It was 1964 when Mandela disembarked on infamous Robben Island where he would spend 18 of his 27 years behind bars.  Perhaps as a warning to all those that now seek to exploit his name, Mandala wrote in his autobiography that “Prison and the authorities conspire to rob each man of his dignity.  In and of itself, that assured that I would survive, for any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose because I will not part with it at any price or under any pressure.”

When Mandela got off the boat, he refused to jog to the prison gate as was expected.  A prison guard warned him that unless he obeyed immediately, he would be killed and his family would never know about it.  He continued to walk.

Minutes later, Mandela courageously stood his ground when a prison officer he’d dared to question moved to hit him. “If you so much as lay a hand on me, I will take you to the highest court in the land, and when I finish with you, you will be as poor as a church mouse,” Mandela warned.  The officer stared in astonishment and backed off.

It was while behind bars that Mandela learned his most valuable lessons in leadership.  As he himself has acknowledged, prison was the crucible that shaped his character.  He went in an angry, immature man convinced that the only way to free his people was through guerrilla warfare.  Yet he learned that revenge through violence brought only fleeting satisfaction.  By studying his jailers, Mandela discovered he had far more in common with his white countrymen then he thought.   In 1990, he came out of prison with the wisdom that forgiveness, compassion, and respect were the most powerful weapons in his arsenal.

The amazing thing is, Mandela didn’t just profess these lofty ideals – he embodied them, leading by quiet example even in the most commonplace of circumstances.  Rutgers Professor Ron Quincy witnessed Mandela’s leadership skills in action while spending time at Mandela’s side as the executive director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

In 1993, the King Center undertook a project working with a group of American students and their South African counterparts to help train 50,000 South Africans in the upcoming election process.

“We hosted Nelson Mandela at the King Center in Atlanta as part of this effort and then I had the privilege of flying back with him to Johannesburg,” recalled Quincy.

At one point during the 18-hour South African Airways flight, Mandela and Quincy were conversing in the aisle when a male flight attendant demanded that Mandela sit down so dinner could be served.

“I was shocked.  The white male attendant shouted at Mandela in a loud, rude, and disrespectful manner.  I was hardly able to restrain my own anger because I’m a part of this humiliation,” recalled Quincy, who decided to hold his tongue, opening the door for a powerful lesson in leadership.

“Mandela then turns and points to me and says, ‘Actually sir, I’m with him,’ shifting the blame to me as if I was the culprit, the important American.  He said it jokingly in a mischievous way, grinning with a wink of the eye, completely disarming the situation and returning to his seat.”

Quincy watched as this man of enormous international stature chose to sit down quietly.

Mandela later told Quincy that when he was active in the African National Congress as a young man, “I learned that the leaders who last are those who understand that every battle is not the end of the war.  That little incident was not the war.  It was not even important, absolutely of no consequence.”

Mandela cautioned Quincy to “never take your condition so seriously that it impedes you from accomplishing your personal mission, which, in my case, is a free democratic election in South Africa.”

Less than a year later, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected black president, his landslide victory a glowing testament to his courage and perseverance.

Effective leaders display the same brand of confident humility, dignity and courage under pressure that Mandela exemplifies.  They demonstrate a relentless focus on executing their mission, refusing to be distracted by the petty jealousies, insecurities, and prejudices of those around them.

What last week’s public relations stunt demonstrated is that despite his obvious fragility and old age, politicians still want to bask in the radiant glow of Nelson Mandela’s character.  If only his powerful dignity could seep into their souls.

 

Believe In Yourself and Stand By Your Convictions

To believe in yourself you have to develop your own convictions and stand firmly by them. Though it may sometimes be very difficult and painful, you must find your own path and follow it.

One of the reasons I went to the U.S. Air Force Academy was because I wanted to be independent of my father.  By getting into the Air Force Academy, which I was able to do through a full academic scholarship, I didn’t have to rely on my father to help pay my tuition.

If my father paid my tuition, I would have had to answer to my dad, “El Tigre,” about my grades, and everything else and I did not want that.  My desire to attend the Air Force Academy was also fueled by the challenge of succeeding at a school that is one of the toughest in the United States.

Obtaining recommendations for my application to the Air Force Academy was an important part of the process.  I asked my high school principal for one, and he told me that he couldn’t recommend me because I wasn’t involved in my high school’s Junior ROTC program; I’d be taking away a spot at a service academy from someone who was more deserving.

To get that recommendation, I went from shooting spitballs at the Junior ROTC cadets to being one of those guys parading around in boots and uniform, having spitballs shot at me, and being mocked by my own friends.  Much to my surprise however, not only did I like Junior ROTC, but I also discovered that I was good at it.

I ended up joining the elite Rangers program.  The challenge of doing well in that program excited me and pushed me forward. After two years of Junior ROTC, I achieved the highest rank possible. I finally earned the recommendation that I had originally sought from my principal.

Although my father wasn’t happy with me being in the military, he put a lot of weight and credence in the character traits such as discipline, honor and integrity.  There was no better place than the Air Force Academy to build those traits.

Years later, my father came to respect my decision to join the military.  Family members were invited to a ceremony at the White House for White House Fellows and got to meet President Reagan.  Because of my father’s keen interest in American government and history, he was as excited as I was to be there.  My father knew I would never have been a White House Fellow if I hadn’t gone to the Air Force Academy and joined the military.

Through all of my successes and setbacks, I believed in myself.  Could I have taken an easier path?  Yes.

Did I have to fight my father and work incredibly hard to gain admission to the U.S. Air Force Academy?  Yes.

Did I have total faith in my ability to achieve this goal? Absolutely.

Would I have gone as far without believing in myself and without a burning desire to succeed?  Absolutely not.

STANDING BY YOUR CONVICTIONS PAYS OFF

Actress and screenwriter Nia Vardalos isn’t the prettiest woman in Hollywood, but certainly is someone who believes in herself.  She wrote the screenplay for the hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  She also stars in the movie, but that wasn’t necessarily going to be the case if Vardalos had left her fate in others hands. Vardalos refused to sell her screenplay to those interested in making it unless she was allowed to star in it.  She believed in herself as an actress and was willing to risk losing a short-term windfall so she could achieve her long-term goal.

Success is about pursuing your passions, not someone else’s dreams. Although your parents may want you to pursue a safe and traditional path to their version of success, it may not be the one that’s right for you.

And if you’re a parent, remember that if you have done your job well, the best you can hope for is that your children are happy with whatever it is they do in life, regardless of their job or who they marry.

Success is not necessarily measured by someone’s bank account, but by the depth of their soul and the contribution they make to others.

Believe in yourself and stand by your convictions!