Category Archives: Leadership and Success

Benjamin Franklin’s Leadership Example

The name Benjamin Franklin is so familiar it is almost a cliché.  School children are introduced to him as the gray haired man flying a kite in a thunderstorm, or as the contemplative elder statesman sitting in the Pennsylvania State House and advising upon the drafting of the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution.  Franklin is one of the most famous founding fathers, and after more than two centuries, there are still those who have trouble understanding why.  As author Gordon S. Wood wrote of Franklin’s return to North America after the signing of the peace treaty ending the Revolutionary War, “When he arrived in 1785, his fellow Americans did not know what to make of him.  They knew he was an international hero, along with Washington the most celebrated American in the world, but they were not quite sure why.  He had not led the revolutionary movement like John Adams.  He had not written a great revolutionary document like Jefferson.  He had not led armies like Washington.” 

When writing about or discussing leadership, it is relatively easy for military and political figures to be examined as examples.  The reason for this is that their lives are lived very much in conflict and battle, and the principles of leadership that apply to “every day” life are seen in broader relief in the context of extreme and dangerous circumstances.  This is why so many leadership books, including our own, are filled with generals and statesman.  Examining Benjamin Franklin as an example of leadership principles is not so straight forward, however.  Seeing his genius in the leadership category requires a little deeper inspection.  But the reward for this extra effort is one of the richest and most motivating examples of leadership one can find.


The life of Benjamin Franklin can best be summarized by breaking it into three distinct phases.  In the first phase, Franklin was a businessman.  As most everybody knows, he rose from obscure and humble beginnings (a much larger barrier to advancement in those days than it is in ours) to become what we would today call a multi-millionaire.  He worked hard, had a great mentor and patron, and learned his trade (printing) well.  He became not just a wealthy printer but a sophisticated entrepreneur.  He was involved in the establishment of over eighteen paper mills, owned an extensive portfolio of rental properties, was a creditor to other business owners, and was involved in setting up other print shops on the model of his first one in Philadelphia.  He also became a famous writer during this same time.  He used his abilities and efforts to establish businesses that he could safely leave to the conduct of others, and by the age of forty seven he was free to pursue other things.  In the second phase of his life, Franklin was a philosopher and scientist.  Although he had been sent to England as the colony of Pennsylvania’s ambassador to the English throne, his passion was scientific thought and discovery.  He became an esteemed member of the Philosophical Society in London and was world famous for his real contribution to the understanding of electricity.  He also invented the Franklin stove, bifocals, an instrument for which Mozart created a musical score, and an almost endless list of contraptions.  During this time, of course, he continued to write. It was in this second phase of Franklin’s life that he was the most happy.  He was famous, well-respected among his peers, dined with Kings and Lords all over Europe, and was friends with most of Europe’s esteemed minds of the day.  He fully expected to live out the rest of his life in England, and couldn’t even be compelled to sail home for the marriage of his only son, the birth of his grandchild, or the waning health of his wife.  But circumstances and his own convictions thrust him into the third phase of his life; that of a patriot and American “founding father.”  He would sail home in 1775 and become one of the most passionate patriots in the Revolution. 

It is in the dramatic circumstances of Franklin’s transition from the second phase of his life into this third phase that most demonstrates his leadership ability.  What transpired would change his life, and the course of American history, forever.

Franklin was slow to comprehend the forces of change that were swirling in the North American colonies.  The violent reaction in North America to the 1765 Stamp Act shook caught him by surprise.  He had trouble understanding the feelings of repression brewing back home.  But an event took place that brought him into the revolutionary spirit with fervor. 

By this time he was not only the representative of Pennsylvania to the English government, but of several others as well, including Massachusetts.  Somehow a pack of private letters from the Massachusetts lieutenant governor Thomas Hutchinson got into Franklin’s hands.  In the letters, Hutchinson was imploring the British government to take more control of the colonies so that they would remain dependent on England.  Franklin sent these letters to officials in Massachusetts with the intent of demonstrating that the problems with the mother country were not official English policy, but the machinations of a few bad apples such as Hutchinson. In the words of Wood, “This was a gross miscalculation, for the letters he sent to Massachusetts only further inflamed the imperial crisis.  Contrary to much conventional wisdom, Franklin was not at all a shrewd politician or a discerning judge of popular passions, certainly not of the prerevolutionary passions of these years.”   The letters were printed in Boston newspapers.  Word soon got back to England about the Hutchinson letters and Franklin’s involvement in the affair finally became public once Franklin stepped forward and admitted to his involvement in order to stop a duel between others involved in accusations.  Franklin firmly defended himself by saying that the letters weren’t private, but from public officials about public matters.  As author H.W. Brands wrote,

“If any in England expected repentance [from Franklin] they certainly did not get it.  Franklin’s assertiveness condemned him the more in the eyes of those who considered Boston a nest of sedition and judged all who spoke for Boston abettors of rebellion.  Until now Franklin – the famous Franklin, scientist and philosopher feted throughout the civilized world – had been above effective reproach.  His admission of responsibility for transmitting the purloined letters afforded his foes the opening they had long sought.”

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts House had petitioned the government in England to remove Hutchinson from his position.  Franklin was called to the Privy Council hearing on the matter.  The opposing counsel was not just a lawyer, but a man named Alexander Wedderburn, the solicitor general.  Wedderburn was feared for his acidic and combative style and his lack of scruples when it came to his own political ambition.  Brands wrote, “Franklin had hoped to argue for Hutchinson’s dismissal on political grounds; the appearance of Wedderburn indicated that the government intended to mount a legal – and personal – counteroffensive.  Moreover, the target of the counteroffensive would not be Massachusetts but Franklin.”  Seeing this, Franklin asked for legal representation and was granted three weeks before the Privy Council would reconvene.  It is here where Franklin, normally the master of timing, became its victim.  Between the first and second Privy Council meetings, the Boston Tea Party took place.  This event shocked London and confirmed for most that the inhabitants of Boston were rebels, making Hutchinson look like a heroic defender of the British interests in a hostile environment. Furthermore, and bad news for Franklin, the Boston Tea Party had outraged officials in London, and Franklin was the on hand to feel the brunt of their wrath.

The second Privy Council meeting was a public spectacle, and very unlike normal, was overwhelmingly well attended.  The large hall, called the “Cock Pit,” was filled with dukes and viscounts and sirs and members of Parliament, including the Prime Minister.  Forgetting any pretense of the purpose of the original meeting, solicitor general Wedderburn launched into a tirade against Franklin that was so severe, so slanderous, that most of it was deemed unfit for print.  He attacked Franklin’s character, his intelligence, his loyalty, his reputation, and made statements such as, “I hope, my Lords, you will mark and brand the man . . . .  He has forfeited all the respect of societies and of men.”  As the diatribe continued, the audience laughed and jeered at Franklin’s expense.  Franklin sat motionless and silent, refusing to change even his facial expression.  Wedderburn continued by blaming the rebellious colonies on Franklin by saying, “these innocent, well-meaning farmers, which compose the bulk of the [Massachusetts] Assembly,” were not responsible for the rebellion.  Instead Franklin was the “first mover and prime conductor, the actor and secret spring, the inventor and first planner.”  This was quite a charge in itself, since Franklin hadn’t even been there in years! 

Franklin maintained his composure.   Wedderburn continued, feeding off the growing approval of the crowd, getting louder and more belligerent.  On and on he went.  Although his expression betrayed his feelings, Franklin grew hotter and hotter. He sat rigid and frozen, however.  Eye witness Edward Bancroft wrote, “The Doctor was dressed in a full dress suit of spotted Manchester velvet and stood conspicuously erect without the smallest movement of any part of his body.”  Wedderburn continued for over an hour, and when he had finally finished, Franklin refused to speak. 

Two weeks later Franklin was still fuming.  He was angrier for the public principles violated than for his own sake.  He wrote to a friend,

“When I see that all petitions and complaints of grievances are so odious to government that even the mere pipe which conveys them becomes obnoxious, I am at a loss to know how peace and union is to be maintained or restored between the parts of the empire.  Grievances cannot be redressed unless they are known; and they cannot be known but through complaints and petitions.  If these are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as offenders, who will henceforth send petitions? And who will deliver them? Where complaining is a crime, hope becomes despair.”

Following the events in the Cock Pit, the government moved to remove Franklin from his long-held and prestigious position of deputy post master.  According to Brands, “Such action was discreditable in itself; it was even more pernicious in its prospect.  Appointments to the post office . . . were being held hostage to adherence to the policies of whatever ministry happened to hold power.”  In other words, disagree with those in power, and they would use their power to break you.  It was a classic case of “shoot the messenger.”  But the English government didn’t stop there.  It immediately passed the Boston Port Act, effectively closing Boston down to commercial trade.  This outrage was followed soon thereafter by the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, the Quartering Act, and the Quebec Act.  These acts would come to be called the “Intolerable Acts,” and would represent a point of no return in the conflict.  In the following weeks the colonies began sending delegates to an emergency continental convention. 

To Franklin’s credit, he hung around London for some time afterwards, and used all his skills and connections to get motions into Parliament attempting to reverse the path toward war with the colonies.  Two of these motions became official, and both were defeated.  Regarding the bullheaded charge of the officials in the English government down the path toward war, Edmund Burke said, “A great empire and little minds go ill together.”

Finally, having lost all hope of finding cooler heads to prevail, Franklin sailed for North America.  Wood wrote, “Franklin had had his deepest aspirations thwarted by the officials of the British government, and he had been personally humiliated by them as none of the other revolutionaries had been.”    The Franklin that stepped ashore in North America was a vastly different man that the one that had departed so many years before.  This Franklin was a man on a mission, with a clear view of how things really stood with mother England.  He had been there.  He had seen it for himself.  He had exhausted every bit of self control and diplomacy he could muster in the cause of maintaining harmony and justice between the two sides.  And he had suffered personally for his attempts.

In the decade to follow, Franklin would be as instrumental in the success of the War for Independence as anyone.  He would spend eight years in France as ambassador to King Louis XVI.  He would leverage his international fame to garner good will and connections.  He would hone his “folksy American” image to further his objectives.  He would befriend the high-born, the nobles, and the many courtiers of Louis’ court.  He would patiently and persistently build a bridge of trust between himself and the French government.  And finally, after years and years of painstaking effort, managing the squabbling ambassadors the colonies sent to help him, Franklin would accomplish his coup de grace.  He would forge an alliance with the mighty French government on behalf of the fledgling colonies.  The day he signed the former papers of alliance with England’s only worthy rival, Franklin showed up wearing the same exact suit he had worn that day years before in the Cock Pit.  He had not forgotten.  He had gotten the final laugh.  According to Wood, “[Franklin] was the greatest diplomat America ever had.  Not only did he bring the monarchy of Louis XVI into the war on behalf of the new Republic, but during the course of that long war he extracted loan after loan from an increasingly impoverished French government.  No other American could have done that.”  The money and munitions given by the French, followed by troops and finally ships, were irreplaceable in the colonial victory in the Revolutionary War.  Without such support, Washington and his battered troops and Congress and its empty coffers would never have made it.   

In the broad swoop of this story the leadership lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin are numerous.  First of all, he reversed his position on the rebellion growing in America when new information presented itself.  Next, he risked his reputation and world renown, and even a secure financial government post, by getting involved in the politics of the colonies’ unrest.  He handled himself with dignity under outrageous circumstances, and didn’t allow his personal pain prevent him from making further overtures of peace.  But once he saw the truth for what it was, he became a fervent champion of its cause.  As a true leader, he could not stand to leave the status quo the status quo.  Injustice was wrong, and no amount of personal prestige or comfort would be enough to make him “play it safe.”  Franklin was also patient, and never lost sight of the big picture, working steadily and methodically for years to accomplish his master stroke.   To use military terminology, Franklin kept his view at the high “campaign” level, rather than get distracted at the detailed “battle” level.  If leadership is influence, Franklin had droves of it: he found his way through a complicated French society and influenced a monarchy to support a rebellion attempting to overthrow another monarchy.  That’s influence.  If leadership is having vision, Franklin was a giant.  Arriving back in the colonies in 1775, most historians agree he was among the first to realize that it was independence or nothing.  While others clamored for middle ground and appeasement Franklin counseled whole hearted resistance.

In the end, Benjamin Franklin is noteworthy for so many things he is almost an intimidating figure peering through history at the rest of us as though we could and should do more.  But towering above his wide range of accomplishments is the legacy of freedom and independence he helped usher into existence.  His greatest achievement did not come from his scientific mind, or his inventive tendencies, or his philosophical wisdom.  Franklin’s greatest contribution came from his role as a leader.  Anyone studying leadership and aspiring to utilize God’s gifts to the fullest extent would be wise to study his example. 

This article was originally posted at

The Lesson of the Unfair Load

The following excerpt was taking from Chris Brady‘s popular book, Leadership Lessons from the Age of Fighting Sail.

To accept the challenge of leadership is to accept responsibility. It is to shoulder burdens that others are unwilling to bear. It is to engage in a relentless pursuit of excellence, to never rest on your laurels, to always strive to improve your performance and results. A leader cannot blame anyone else for his or her team’s lack of results. The only finger a leader can ever point—if he or she wants to be effective—is at him- or herself.

Many people aspire to leadership because of the potential glory it offers while being ignorant of the certain loneliness it requires. Before a leader can earn great rewards, he or she must first bear an unfair load. While a leader cannot point fingers of blame, there are always plenty of fingers pointed at a leader by other people. Everyone looks to the leader for ultimate responsibility. It’s not fair; nor is it easy.

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US President Harry Truman kept a sign on his desk that expressed the lesson of the unfair load well. It said: “The buck stops here.” Effective leadership is an exercise in extreme responsibility. Even when other people are to blame for something that goes wrong, you can’t point fingers at anyone except yourself. A true leader never whines that his or her people “just don’t get it.” Rather, a true leader asks him- or herself, “Where have I failed? What must I learn from this? What more can I do?” Great leaders are hard on themselves and easy on others. That example of extreme personal accountability inspires others to follow suit and creates a culture of accountability.

As a leader, you will be required to deal with things that are unfair. You will be called to shoulder extra burdens. People will blame you for things that really aren’t your fault. You will be criticized and scorned, overlooked and belittled, neglected and rejected. But if you stick with it through those hard times, you will also be recognized, praised, and rewarded. You will grow in ability and influence. You will feel the profound satisfaction that only comes from knowing you have made a difference. There’s nothing easy about leadership. But those willing to accept the unfair load “wouldn’t be elsewhere for thousands,” as Lord Nelson put it.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Embrace the Struggle

“When I look back over my life, the times I’ve struggled have not been fun. But they appear in broad relief, now, as the greatest moments of change and personal growth. I would not be who I am today without those trials and struggles that made me stronger and better. ” – Chris Brady

Most everyone has heard the phrase, “Dream, Struggle, Victory.” And it seems that there is a lot of literature out there addressing the first and the last of those three terms. But is it not interesting how little coverage is given to the struggle part?

Obviously, if we undertake some great endeavor we are going to struggle to accomplish it. What most people might not realize, however, is that the struggle is probably the most important part. It is the struggle that makes us grow. It is the struggle that reveals the character we have deep inside for continuing onward in the face of adversity. And it is the struggle that makes for any good movie or story of achievement.

One author I have read actually referred to it as the “gift of struggle.” Perhaps some would think it was going too far to call struggle a gift, but I believe it to be one. If you stop and think about it, the struggle is the only place in which we grow. It is the struggle that makes us stronger. No bodybuilder would be able to build muscle mass without weight or resistance. The pushing against or raising of the weight strains and pulls at the muscle fibers, which then need to repair themselves. Only in this repair process are the muscles made a little stronger than they were before. More lifting causes the cycle to start over again, until the muscles are bigger and stronger than ever before – all because of the “damage” of the struggle and the repair that was necessary afterward. Struggles in our lives works the same way. Just like lifting weights, they do not necessarily feel good. And they can and often do cause pain. But how we handle those struggles, and what we do to overcome them and “repair” our commitment to the dream, will build us stronger than we were before the struggle occurred.

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In Launching a Leadership Revolution, co-author Orrin Woodward and I even give special consideration to the topic of struggle in the section on mentorship. A good mentor knows that his protégé must struggle to become great, to grow, and to maximize, so he allows the struggles while teaching the protégé how to handle them, overcome them, and learn from them. Some might call this callous or cold; some might call it lack of caring on the part of the mentor. After all, who would let someone struggle? Why would one not want to swoop in and eliminate the struggle for the protégé and make his or her way easier? It is the same as teaching our child to walk. If every time she started to bobble we grabbed her and kept her from falling, we would appear to be helping her. We would appear to be caring. But actually, we would be hurting our child by trying to help her too much. One of the greatest things my parents and mentors have done for me is to give me the encouragement to try, and then allowed me to make my own mistakes and learn from them. By creating my own messes, and knowing full well that I had the responsibility alone for my actions and cleaning them up, so to speak, I was allowed to struggle and grow through those adversities. When I look back over my life, the times I’ve struggled have not been fun. But they appear in broad relief, now, as the greatest moments of change and personal growth. I would not be who I am today without those trials and struggles that made me stronger and better.

So embrace the struggle. It is not a bad word. Is is not to be avoided. And when you see it in the life of those you love and mentor, of course, do what you can to keep them from actual harm. But in the course of events, allow them to take responsibility for their own lives, allow them to struggle against the resistance, and therefore build their mental muscles stronger. For out of the greatest adversity comes the greatest opportunity, and in those moments the greatest leaders are made.

Ships may be safe at harbor, but they were not made for the harbor, they were made for the dangerous high seas. And leaders may be safe on the couch, but they were not born for the couch, they were born for the tumultuous waters of engagement.

Have a dream. Embrace the struggle. Capture the victory!

For more “tidbits” of wisdom like this, pick up a copy of Leadership: Tidbits and Treasures, written by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, article written by Chris Brady)


What is Leadership?

The following excerpt was taking from Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady’s New York Times best-selling book, Launching a Leadership Revolution

What is Leadership?

The concept of “leadership” is a complex one. Most everybody has a feel for what the term means, at least in a general sense, but generalizations about leadership don’t help us very much. In order to understand how to lead and why to lead and what it even means to lead, we’d better get clear on what comprises this complex idea embodied in this simple little English word.

Brady and WoodwardWe’ve tried this exercise of defining leadership with audiences large and small, and invariably the same thing happens. We begin getting word phrases that all sound pretty good, phrases like “taking responsibility” and “getting results,” or one-word descriptors such as “commitment,” “perseverance,” “charisma,” and “integrity.” These are all true in a sense, but somehow they don’t go far enough. So then we switch to attempting definitions by combining all these phrases, but it creates so much mumbo jumbo, like one big buzzword soup from a corporate boardroom. Somehow the words meant something to us individually when thinking about leadership, but when fused together, the life went right out of them.

At this point, it may be helpful to turn to some experts on the subject. Surely they can bring some congruity. The list that follows is just a short offering:

  1. James C. Hunter: “We define leadership . . . as a skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good.”
  2. Al Kaltman: “The successful leader gets superior performance from ordinary people.”
  3. Bill George: “The leader’s job is to provide an empowering environment that enables employees to serve their customers and provides them the training, education, and support they need.”
  4. Andy Stanley: “Leaders provide a mental picture of a preferred future and then ask people to follow them there.”
  5. Vance Packard: “Leadership is getting others to want to do something that you are convinced should be done.”
  6. Garry Wills: “Leadership is mobilizing others toward a goal shared by the leader and followers.”
  7. Alan Keith: “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”
  8. George Barna: “A leader is one who mobilizes; one whose focus is influencing people; a person who is goal driven; someone who has an orientation in common with those who rely upon him for leadership; and someone who has people willing to follow them,” and “Leadership is the process of motivating, mobilizing, resourcing, and directing people to passionately and strategically pursue a vision from God that a group jointly embraces.”
  9. Kenneth O. Gangel: “I consider leadership to be the exercise of one’s special gifts under the call of God to serve a certain group of people in achieving the goals God has given them toward the end of glorifying Christ.”
  10. Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

These insights and definitions are good and helpful, and some we like particularly, but John Maxwell gives an exemplary definition, quoted here at length from his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership:

Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. People have so many misconceptions about leadership. When they hear that someone has an impressive title or an assigned leadership position, they assume that he is a leader. Sometimes that’s true. But titles don’t have much value when it comes to leading. True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that can’t be mandated. It must be earned.

What, then, is influence? Our favorite explanation of influence comes to us from nineteenth-century preacher and author Albert Barnes: “Influence is that in a man’s known talents, learning, character, experience, and position, on which a presumption is based that what he holds is true; that what he proposes is wise.”

George Barna tells us, “To be effective, a leader must have influence. But influence is a product of great leadership; it is not synonymous with it. You can have influence in a person’s life without leading him anywhere.”

Perhaps there will never be a short, cute definition for leadership. We are certain there will never be one upon which all “experts” agree. This very difficulty in arriving at a concise explanation for the concept illustrates the enormity of the subject at hand. But all of the above definitions hit near the same mark. Any attempts to be more concise or specific are like trying to grab smoke. For the purpose of this study, then, we will fuse the above commentary into the following:

Leadership is the influence of others in a productive, vision-driven direction
and is done through the example, conviction, and character of the leader.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Hunger as a Discipline

The following excerpt was taking from Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward’s New York Times Best-seller, Launching a Leadership Revolution

Those who take active responsibility to foster their motivation on a regular basis will outperform those who do not. It is the responsibility of the leader to keep him or herself hungry on a regular basis. Napoleon Hill, author of the world-famous book Think and Grow Rich, said, “One must realize that all who have accumulated great fortunes first did a certain amount of dreaming, hoping, wishing, desiring, and planning before they acquired money.”

All of leadership starts with hunger. At any point in time when the leader is not hungry, the leader is not functioning as a leader. This may sound radical, but it is true. Remember, a leader takes people somewhere. The moment the leader is not moving, the leader is not leading. And it takes ambition to keep the leader moving.

Picture success as a road that leads to your dreams:


Along each side of the road are shoulders. Often the shoulders of roads are comprised of gravel. If a driver inadvertently runs onto the gravel, the sound serves as a warning that a course correction is required to resume traveling safely on the road. Conversely, sometimes that same gravel can grip the wheels of the vehicle and pull it from the road into the ditch.

On the left shoulder is comfort. Comfort is fine in small doses and in certain areas of life, but, like gravel, it can also serve as a warning. Remember, ambition flourishes in discontent with the status quo. Discontent and comfort cannot coexist. If a leader becomes too comfortable, ambition will die, and the soft gravel of comfort can pull him or her down into the Ditch of Complacency. Complacency is defined by Webster as “self satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” Complacency pulls a leader from the road of success and halts all travel toward his or her dreams, as when a car is stuck in a ditch.

There is another danger in traveling too close to the Shoulder of Comfort: opposing traffic. Most people in life are looking for the easy road. They want comfort and will pay the price of mediocrity to get it, so they rush toward it like cows to the barn at feeding time. If a leader attempts to lead from a position of comfort, he or she will run smack into that mass of traffic heading in the other direction away from dreams and toward mediocrity.

Leaders, however, shun comfort and seek excellence instead. They subscribe to the theory held by author Al Kaltman: “Without meaningful work, life stinks.” They travel down the right lane in the diagram and away from oncoming traffic. The right lane is never crowded. There always seems to be a shortage of leaders but a plethora of people heading the other way. This is one thing that makes a leader so special. Also notice that being a leader means traveling close to the Shoulder of Frustration. In fact, this is the mark of any true leader. Being a leader is a study in managed frustration. How can one have ambition for a brighter tomorrow without being frustrated at the current set of realities? How can a leader be at war with the status quo and not be frustrated at the same time? The answer, of course, is that no leader can. Any real leader traveling the Road of Success toward his or her dreams will encounter frustration along the journey. Frustration can be healthy, but just like the shoulder on the other side of the road, this gravel of frustration presents a trap. Too much frustration can be a warning to the leader that his or her attitude is dipping and could pull the leader down into the Ditch of Discouragement. Discouragement is a showstopper because it robs the leader of hope. Without hope, the leader is trapped in the Ditch of Discouragement and makes no further progress toward his or her dreams.

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The only way to stay away from oncoming traffic, the Shoulder of Comfort, and the Ditch of Complacency—and the only way to travel near the Shoulder of Frustration but clear of the Ditch of Discouragement—is to focus straight ahead on the dreams in front of you. Having a dream focus keeps a leader safely on the Road to Success. The best way to stay focused is to manage that hunger.

So staying hungry is actually a discipline. Webster defines discipline as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties.” Hunger is certainly a mental faculty; notice that it needs training, molding, and perfecting. True leaders understand this and take the necessary steps on a regular basis to provide their hunger with the proper care and feeding. Many times, leaders don’t need to know more about what is to be done; they just need to find more leverage for themselves to do what they already know how to do.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

How to Become a Mentor of Mentors

In their book Launching a Leadership Revolution, authors Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward wrote about the five levels of influence, teaching that understanding each is an important skill for great leaders. These levels include:

1. Learning
2. Performing
3. Leading
4. Developing leaders
5. Developing leaders who develop leaders

Great mentoring is all about levels four and five. Brady and Woodward said, “When we wrote the book, we didn’t know it would become a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller. We didn’t know that many thousands of people would embrace it and use it to build companies that build leaders. But we did know that leadership is only level 3, and that even more important than leadership is developing leaders.”

CB and OW quoteIn short, the greatest mentors don’t mentor only those they work with directly. Rather, they think of the people their mentees will mentor and even those who will be mentored
four or five generations ahead, and they help their mentees become the type of mentors who can become great mentors of mentors.

For example, consider how this works in a family setting. Some people focus on their career as the center point of life. Ask most people what they do in life, and they’ll say they’re a doctor, attorney, accountant, businessperson, engineer, or some other profession.

Sometimes, in contrast, we meet people who answer the same question by saying, “I’m a dad,” “I’m a father to three great children,” or “I’m a wife and mother.” While this cheeky answer frequently indicates that the person has given a lot of thought to his or her life purpose and priorities, the truth is that there is an even better way.

On one level, we can focus on our work life as the center of our purpose.

At a higher level, we can make our marriage and parental relationships the top priority.

At an even better level, we can be the kind of parents who wisely and consciously raise our grandkids—even when our own kids are just little. This means thinking through what we’re really doing as parents. Are we just career people who happen to have kids? Hopefully not.

Likewise, are we spouses and parents raising kids to be confident, contributing adults? This is a good step.

Or are we, above all, future grandparents who are raising our kids to be fantastic parents who themselves will raise their children in a way that positively influences several generations to come? Those who see their role in such far-reaching generational terms will approach their marriage and parenting in a purposeful way.

The same applies to business mentoring. If we mentor only the people with whom we work directly, we won’t be as helpful to them as if we see our role as one of mentoring them to be great mentors of mentors.

(This excerpt was taken from the Life Essentials Series book, Mentoring Matters. Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Grateful Alive

There is an old rock band (with a heavy emphasis on old) named The Grateful Dead. I have never really listened to their music and don’t know much about them, but apparently, they have a huge cult following and have made quite a career out of live performances. They may be very good, for all I know. However, I have never been able to get around their stupid and morbid name. Grateful Dead? What in the world does that mean? Is it someone’s attempt at being clever? Is it supposed to be counter-intuitive? Is it meant to be shocking?

Some questions, such as these, aren’t really worth pursuing very far. When it comes right down to it, the origin behind a rock band name chosen decades ago by some musicians isn’t very important. But the concept their name evokes, or rather, the opposite of that concept, is being grateful for being alive. Now this is a worthy topic!

quote pic 7Life is magnificently rich and complex, wonderful and varied, pleasurable and diverse. It is so indescribably impossible to describe that one can’t even begin to describe it. We all know about life because we are all alive. We know it as well as anyone could know a thing because we are it. We experience it every second of our existence with every breath we take. However, much like a fish in water, we are so close to it that we often don’t even think of it at all.

And that, I think, explains how we can get off track in our attitudes about life. We are so used to being alive that we take it for granted.

No one wants to be around someone like that. But in truth, if we are honest, all of us have had lapses in our lives when we too were not as grateful as we should have been. We have had moments when we have forgotten the many blessings we have and all the things for which we should be thankful.

Remind yourself to strive to be the kind of person who notices the gift of life, maintains the sense of wonder at all this world holds in store, and is deeply grateful for every little blessing that comes your way. As a result, you will be happier and more fulfilled, with the added bonus that you will be more enjoyable to be around as well.

While it is true that no one wants to be around an ungrateful person, the opposite is that people will clamor to be in your presence when you are appreciative and grateful, thankful and polite.

You’re welcome!

Chris Brady

Winners Play Hurt

The following excerpt was taken directly from Chris Brady’s book, Rascal:

Health is a gift we often take for granted until it is compromised. When sick or ill, we hark back to the healthful days with longing; yearning to feel better again and regain our former vitality. None of us is going to be healthy forever. All will experience sickness and debilitation, to different degrees, to be sure. And to be clear, there are significant, debilitating illnesses which will quite literally take a Rascal out of his game for a period, and in extreme cases, permanently. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a good attitude in the midst of the toil and realize that for a vast majority of afflictions, we will simply have to tough it out and press through it. Truth be told, many of the great achievements throughout the ages have been done by Rascals who simply had to tough it out through sickness, pain, discomfort, or whatever. When all else fails, toughness alone can be a powerful weapon to keep one in the field.

There is an interesting concept I’ve discovered by watching champions of all kinds: winners learn to play hurt. Everyone experiences sickness and pain, heartache and hurt feelings, brokenness and despair. Pestilence, hunger, disease, sickness, and injury have plagued humanity since the fall. These facts are true for rich and poor alike. The famous, lucky, beautiful and gifted all suffer as do the obscure, unlucky, ugly and average. In fact, in light of that truth, these superficial labels start to lose their power to classify people. In the end, we are all living under the same set of human conditions where pain, suffering, and setbacks are just a way of life.

Rascals understand these rules of the game and learn to press on regardless. In a literal illustration, top level professional athletes learn to continue the season with wrapped injuries and pain-killers. Sitting in chill tubs or massage rooms after the games, they work through the pain to ready their bodies to perform again. Most sports are played by athletes with injuries and damaged bodies.

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I will never forget a particular National Football League game in Texas years ago. The Dallas Cowboys were aiming to make it to Super Bowl XXVIII and playing a late season game at home against the New York Giants. Home field advantage for the playoffs was on the line and the Giants were giving the Cowboys a rough time of it. It looked bleak for the Cowboys when in the second quarter, star running back Emmitt Smith went down hard on the frozen surface and separated his left shoulder. The pain was evident in his face. Smith went off the field drooping his shoulder and wincing. Surprisingly, though, Smith came back into the game. He ran the ball again and got tackled hard. Slow to get up, Smith made his way back to the huddle for another play. Smith ran the ball or caught passes again, and again, and again. Each time it appeared it was all he could do just to get back up. Somehow, though, Emmitt Smith managed to carry the ball just one more time. Said Smith years afterward, “I’m in the huddle saying to myself, ‘No pain, no pain,’ I’m just talking to myself, ‘no pain,’ and tears are rolling out of my eyes, I’m trying to convince myself there’s no pain, but I was feeling all the pain!” Teammate Michael Irving said of Smith’s resilient play that day, “He stood up and played, I mean he just played and played and played. I’ve never seen a performance like that!” The statistics say it all. That afternoon, Emmitt Smith had the ball for 42 of the Cowboys’ 70 offensive plays, with 32 runs for 170 yards and 10 catches for 62 more. The Cowboys defeated the New York Giants that day, securing home field advantage for a playoff run that would indeed see them win the Super Bowl.

The converse of this type of performance might be called “loser’s limp.” We’ve probably all seen it before: a defensive football player gets beat on a play, gives chase to the offensive player carrying the ball toward the end-zone, then upon seeing that the chase is futile, pulls up with a feigned injury as an excuse.

In life, people can choose to either play hurt or adopt a loser’s limp. A loser’s limp involves finding some excuse, any excuse, to explain away the lack of success. It’s as if these people are searching for an explanation good enough to get them off the hook. And in fact, when it comes to choosing not to succeed, any excuse will do. It is one thing to make excuses for lack of performance to others, and that is bad enough. But the saddest excuse is the one a person sells to himself. Unfortunately, many will work very hard to convince others of the excuse they have chosen to adopt for themselves. The only problem is that any excuse they have for not accomplishing something has already been used by somebody else as the very reason for accomplishing it! The difference is whether or not someone is willing to play hurt!

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Three Steps for Leaders in the Fog of Battle

“When things get tough, when times get hard, when the way seems unclear, finding someone to help, love, and serve is the biggest pressure reliever known to man.” – Chris Brady 

Leaders must deal in reality, and often that reality is complicated and ever changing. Complexity, however, is no excuse for lack of results. Leaders, despite their circumstances, the pressures they face, the long odds they brave, and the machinations against them, are still, in the end, held accountable for their results. If there were a Leadership Hall of Fame (as I think there should be), there would certainly be no section dedicated to the “Yeah, buts.”

So what is a leader to do? How best to battle difficult circumstances and unfair pressures? The key is to keep things simple.

Three Steps:

  1. Remember your purpose
  2. Focus on priorities
  3. Find someone to serve

The easiest way to do this is to go all the way to the “thirty thousand foot view”, and remember your overall purpose. Just what got you into this position of responsibility in the first place? At one point, I would hope, you were convinced that what you were doing was worthwhile. What was the basis for that decision? Why did it matter so much to you? More succinctly, what was the vision you had of what could be? What part of the status quo did you absolutely deplore? You see, leaders are leaders because they find something they cannot stand to leave the way they found it. Some situation seemed wrong to them, or perhaps not as right as it could be. Somebody was hurting or suffering and needed a leader to step in. Someone was being wronged and needed defending. Some rule was unfair. Some government was unlawful. Some person was disrespectful. Some project was unfinished. These are the roots of leadership, because they speak firstly to a leader’s discontent. Automatically, when a person of character is confronted with such a situation, they become a leader because they cannot stand to leave the situation the way they found it. A vision forms in their mind of how things could be better, they cannot let go of it, nor it of them. The vision of what things could be like causes a hunger inside the leader for change. The tension that a leader feels when considering his or her vision, is priceless, because it is the driving force behind leadership. A leader confronted with unfair circumstances and overwhelming pressures must first go back to the vision and his or her overriding purpose in life. From there, everything will look a little clearer.

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The next thing to do is prioritize amid the fog. Find out the one or two BEST things to do, and get started on them right away. Remember, there are a lot of GOOD things to do, but usually only one or two BEST things to do. Focus upon those and temporarily disregard the rest. As the Bible says, Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”

After remembering his or her purpose and focusing on priorities, the leader must next find someone to serve. When things get tough, when times get hard, when the way seems unclear, finding someone to help, love, and serve is the biggest pressure reliever known to man.

A leader who implements these three basics during the “fog of battle” will be surprised at his or her results. After all, results are what a leader is held accountable for.


Chris Brady

Life As a Layer Cake

How do you decide what to do with the time that’s been given to you? This is a question most people ponder their entire lives. In Chris Brady’s classic talk, Life as a Layer Cake, he attempts to answer this question by providing a thoughtful illustration you won’t soon forget.

To somewhat review…

There’s a dichotomy of advice on how to approach your life:

Viewpoint A – “Be successful but hate what you do.”

Viewpoint B – “Love what you do but never succeed.”

Because these are two very separate paths, how do you decide which one is right?


It may help to create your own layer cake and personalize it to your life.

  1. What preparatory and preliminary experiences do you have that have shaped who you are? (education, up-bringing, learning experiences)
  2. What is your pragmatic occupation? (pays the bills and provides for your needs)
  3. Do you have a passionate pursuit? (something that fulfills you)
  4. Are you chasing a purposeful calling? (significance, contribution)

There are multiple dimensions of what it takes to be complete in your life.

“We need ALL of these layers to maximize our potential and feel the most fulfilled and happy. The larger and more developed each layer is, the more complete, fulfilled and happy you will feel.” – Chris Brady

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)