One of the marvelous things about life is that any gaps in your education can be filled, whatever your age or situation, by reading, and thinking about what you read. (Bennis)

 Are you in any of these groups?

  •  33% of U.S. high school graduates will never read a book after high school.
  • 42% of college students will never read another book after they graduate.
  • 80% of U.S. families did not buy a book last year.
  • 70% of adults have not been in a book store or ordered a book online in the past 5 years.

The fact that you are reading this blog indicates that you are literate. This is a good thing, but not sufficient. The critical question is not can you read but do you read? Mark Twain observed,“Those who do not read have no advantage over those who cannot read.” I would add: but those who do read are better off than those who can read but do not.

When I was in graduate school I read a lot, but after completing my degree I didn’t read much for the next ten years. Perhaps I had what John Maxwell calls destination disease. He says, “Some people mistakenly believe that if they can accomplish a particular goal, they no longer have to grow. This disease can infect us at many times in life: after earning a degree, reaching a desired position, receiving a particular award, or achieving a financial goal.”

I regret that for 120 months I seldom opened a book. Granted, reading is not the only way to learn and grow, but it’s a good way.

When was the last time you read an intriguing book that challenged your thinking?

The potential benefit of reading regularly is astounding. If you read 60 minutes every day you could read a book a week, four books a month, 52 books a year, 520 books in 10 years. That would change your life. If you read 520 books, in a world in which the average person reads less than a book a year, you would develop a decisive advantage in life.

Read widely and think deeply.

Click here to read more on how to learn from reading.

Click here to learn how to quickly and effectively read a non-fiction book.


What? – Though reading is beneficial, most adults don’t read.
So what? -Those who do not read are no better off than those who cannot read; but those who do read will grow, learn, and have an advantage over those who can but do not.
Now what? – Set a goal to read one significant book per month. If you need suggestions on what to read, see the recommended book section on my home page.

Leaders – On a regular basis, lead your team to read and discuss significant books.

Have vision – all things are created twice

telescopeWhen Disney World first opened, Mrs. Walt Disney was asked to speak at the Grand Opening because her husband, Walt, had died before the project was completed. She was introduced by a man who said, “Mrs. Disney, I just wish Walt could have seen this.” She stood up and said, “He did,” and sat down. (Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within, pg. 143)

Walt had vision.

Anthropologists tell us that humans are the only species of mammals that can think about the future, conceptualize what it might look like, and control our destiny. Take advantage of this gift.

Vision casting is not an attempt to predict the future; it endeavors to shape the future by visualizing possibilities which then influence current action.

Mary and I had a vision of being debt-free. It took 20 years of frugal living and careful planning, but in 1995 we made our last house payment and became unhindered by debt. Early in our marriage we had a vision for higher education among our family members; now, in our immediate family we have an M.B.A., Ph.D., M.D., a master’s from Columbia, and a Juilliard graduate.

In life, you seldom drift into a good spot. If you don’t have vision and don’t take initiative, you will likely be marooned in mediocrity.

Crafting vision is not a mysterious or difficult exercise. Simply take the time to think about the future and identify ways that it can be better than the present.

In his book The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey says, “Vision is applied imagination. All things are created twice: first, a mental creation; second, a physical creation. The first creation is vision” (pg. 70).

When Mrs. Disney said that Walt “saw” Disneyland although he died before it was completed, he truly had — in his mind, where it was first created.


What? – Vision is a mental picture of the future that is better than the present.
So what? – Vision will help optimize your life.
Now what? – On a regular basis, take time to think about your future. Consider many possibilities, and in time, some of them will captivate your heart — pursue those.

Leaders – Is your organization energized by fresh vision? Vision casting is one of the 12 skills taught in the Lead Well workshop. Click here for a full manuscript of the lesson.

Get ‘er done

convertibleThe story is told of the town drunk who left the tavern late at night and decided to take a shortcut home, even though it meant walking through the graveyard.

There were no moon or stars to light the ground, and with his cautiousness hampered by inebriation, he tripped and fell into an open grave prepared for the next day’s funeral. He was immediately stone sober. He frantically tried to get out of the grave but it was too deep; when he tried to scale the side walls the dirt just crumbled in his hands. After several unsuccessful attempts, he decided to wait until dawn—someone would arrive and help him out. So he sat in the corner and began to doze off.

But soon, another town drunk, also hoping to shorten his walk home, stumbled into the same grave. The newcomer had the same first reaction as his predecessor; he started jumping toward the top, clawing at the dirt, trying to escape.

Realizing the man’s attempts would be futile, and wanting to spare him the trouble, the first drunk said, “Friend, you’ll never get out of here.”

But he did.

It’s amazing what you can do — when you have to. It’s sad what you won’t do — if you don’t have to.

Years ago I worked for an organization that was so small (only seven employees) that we didn’t have a marketing or sales department. During a staff meeting, the boss asked if one of us would take on the marketing responsibilities. I replied, “I’ve never done that before and wouldn’t know how or where to start.” I punted.

Several years later, I started my own business and for the first year I was the only employee. I produced some products that needed to be marketed, but I didn’t have the money to hire someone, so guess who became the chief marketing officer. I did.

I crafted and pursued a self-directed crash course in marketing and advertising: I read four books on the subject, interviewed professionals, did a lot of research, and learned through trial and error. I became quite good at it.

It’s amazing what you can do — when you have to.

Why do we often wait until we are compelled to do something before we do it? Are we lazy, fearful, complacent? If so, are these inhibitors affecting all areas of our lives?

An unemployed friend of mine was very casual about finding a job, perhaps because his wife made good money and was supporting the family. But she left him and suddenly he was on his own. He immediately found a job. Interesting…

One day while driving around suburban Detroit, Iacocca passed someone in an old Mustang convertible. “That’s what Chrysler needs,” Iacocca thought. “A convertible.”

As soon as he got back to his office, he called the head of engineering. “Well,” said the department head, “the normal production cycle is five years. I suppose if we really pushed, we can have a convertible coming off the line in three years.”

Continue reading “Get ‘er done”

Prioritize and focus




Vilfredo Pareto, a mathematician, sociologist, and economist of the 1800s, laid the groundwork for what has become the 80/20 rule. Pareto theorized that in any given group there are relatively few “significant” items, and attention must be placed on these if maximum results are to be expected. Stated another way, 80 percent of the results will come from 20 percent of the events. It’s important to differentiate between the vital few and the useful many.

For instance:

  • An insurance company discovered that 80 percent of its income came from 20 percent of its clients.
  • A manufacturing firm realized that 80 percent of its sales were coming from 20 percent of its product line.
  • In most non-profit organizations, 20 percent of the contributors provide 80 percent of the income.

This rule compels us to identify and focus on priorities. What are the load-bearing factors that exert an inordinate amount of influence on your life and organization? Are your resources allocated accordingly?

When I teach the Lead Well workshop, I use an object lesson to underscore the importance of focusing on a few important tasks. Every delegate receives three golf balls, a small plastic sleeve that’s made to hold the balls, and a small sack of sand. I ask delegates to simply place the golf balls and the sand in the sleeve and put the lid on.

The only way to make it work is to put the golf balls in first, then pour the sand in and allow it to fill in the space around the golf balls. If you insert the sand first, the balls won’t fit and the sleeve won’t close.

Continue reading “Prioritize and focus”