A “goal” or a “decision”?

I hate the word “goals”.  Mainly because it gives you a way out.   Most of our “goals” are achievable and the steps are known if we just make “decisions” about the actions we are going to take. 

Stop eating crap, find a better job, start the business, go to the gym, do the thing,   etc.   Those aren’t “goals” they are “decisions”.  To me a “decision” is way simpler than “wishing” for a result.  

This year I am making some decisions to stop doing some things and start doing other things.   Results will then come on their own.  

I used to ask people what their “New Year Resolutions” are.   It seems more appropriate to me now to simply ask what decisions you have made that move you closer to your desired result.  

What are yours?

Angels in the (Out) Field

I’ve never really believed that there are angels out there. I also had this media-created view of angels as these soft fluffy things with wings.

1974, Fort Worth, Texas

I was a child, maybe 8 or 9. My mom was really starting to get sick and we had gone shopping in Fort Worth where we lived. In those days, you went to big “department stores”, which were often multiple floors and frankly a bit difficult to navigate. We had been visiting the old Monnig’s store.

Something happened in the store, and my Mom got really, really tired. This is before cell phones and easy access to quick communication. I remember sitting down with her in the elevator bank and she said, “I think we need to call your dad”. Literally, at that exact moment, her mom walked up who was also shopping in the store. She got home and to the doctor she needed.

In that moment, my Grandmother was the angel.

Was that just luck? Was it divine? I have no idea. What I do know is that time after time, people come into our lives at precisely the moments we need them. And we come into THEIR lives too.

How are you “feeling”?

Oh, just fine. I’m “great”, just awesome. Thank you so much for asking.

The question is genuine, but the answer isn’t. I’m not “great”, I’m something else which I can’t describe.

It’s been almost a year since I completed radiation treatment and the facts are, I am feeling anything but “great”.

I feel exhausted. It still takes alot of energy to do basic things. I still run out of gas in areas of my life that I used to be able to do alot more.

I feel guilty. Over the last few years, I’ve seen too many friends and colleagues suffer with this fucking disease. Why them? Why not me?

I feel pressure. I now know that every day is such an incredible gift that has so much value it’s impossible to even describe. I feel an overwhelming need to do something spectacular with this, but I have no idea what or how to even start.

I feel blessed. Sometimes the act of giving involves accepting the help of others. I am overwhelmingly blessed with resources, love and help.

I feel hope. I somehow know everthing will be OK. It’s not my job to have all the answers.

I think the answers may be simpler and easier than they seem. Maybe it’s just love. Giving, accepting and being OK with just “being”.

It’s 2:48 AM. I woke up with this on my heart. Going back to sleep now. Carry on.

360 degrees in 365 days

Last week I turned 55. One year ago to the day today, I was facing a really ugly tumor. Let’s just say this last year is amazing grace. I just got back from backpacking in the mountains of Colorado with some inspiring friends. To have the strength to do this is indeed a miracle.

A few things I am thankful for today:

  • I am alive
  • I am strong.
  • I am healthy.
  • I have a beautiful wife that loves me, in spite of me.
  • I have two beautiful daughters that are amazing.
  • I still have my Dad and he’s happy.
  • I have a group of friends and colleagues that are lovers of life and God.
  • I live in a beautiful place with the love of my life.

Yea, we had some tough times. Times when I wondered why God was punishing me. But I survived with the support of a lot of people, and those times only served to strengthen who I will be when God is done with me.

I now know those times are just chapters in a really cool novel with MANY chapters.

I can’t wait for the next chapter.

“Fearing Not” – Easier said than done!

COVID 19 is in Dallas, Tarrant and Denton Counties, Texas. Schools are closed, grocery stores are out of meat, and toilet paper, restaurants are closed, Starbucks only allows drive-throughs and people are sick and dying. Businesses are going to close, jobs lost, the market is in freefall. This is the real deal.

In an attempt to stay normal, I took a run this morning down by the lake near our house. I saw ALOT of birds that didn’t seem worried and they seemed well-fed and healthy. One of them, a cardinal seemed to be following me, playfully. She reminded me of my favorite verse. I think now more than ever, we need to not be afraid.

Luke 12-22

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the birds: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

If I learned anything this last year, it’s learning to realize that we’re not in control. Life is a gift, we are only here today because He decided we would be.

Stay strong my friends. Together, we will be fine. It may suck for a while, but the earth WILL continue to rotate.

‘Alan, I’ll be in early to explain” What a smashed Galaga arcade machine taught me about empathic leadership.

2:39 AM MARCH 1983 Six Flags over Texas

Date is approximate, time of day and location is not

I heard the crash and immediately knew what had happened. I had ONE JOB, it was to deliver a precious, BRAND NEW Galaga machine worth approximately $2200 from one of the several arcades at Six Flags over Texas to our shop, behind Good Times Square. The route required me to go under a train bridge where the Six Flags train circled the park.

I was young and had “worked my way up the chain” at Six Flags to the coveted role of “Arcade Mechanic”, where my job was to fix arcade machines, trains, boats, dollar changers, ski ball machines, etc. I wore a radio on my belt and basically “roamed” the park looking for problems, but mostly talking to girls.

It was an awesome job.

The Awesome ARCADE Shop of the early 80s at Six Flags over Texas. From right to left, Alan, Steve and Charlie (me). Credit to Alan Kilpatrick for this photo

Occasionally, some tasks could only be done at night. Like moving a machine across the park. I regularly worked late at Six Flags, it was fun. It was a little creepy, but there was a surprising amount of activity in the park even at 2:30 AM.

Six Flags over Texas in the 80s.

I loaded the machine with one of the little golf carts we used to haul stuff around the park, I placed the machine upright on the back. And yep, drove under the train bridge.

BOOM

And there it was. This arcade machine is worth more than I would make in the whole summer, in what appeared to be 1000 parts spread across the concrete under the bridge.

I looked around. Good, no one saw. I quickly gathered the evidence and loaded it into our arcade shop. I knew Alan, my boss would be there at about 8 AM the next morning. I contemplated what to do. This is before cell phones, and anyway, it’s 2:39 AM.

I scribbled a pathetic note on the wreckage.

“Alan, I will be in early to explain”

And I went home ready to lose my job the next morning. I was set to work again at 2 PM the next day for a swing shift. I got up and came in early, getting there about 11 AM. Walking in, I was amazed to see that Alan had completely re-assembled the machine and other than a few scratches, it was fully functional.

He looked at me, I looked at him and we both busted out laughing. The Galaga machine is probably still in service somewhere.

Here’s the message here. I told the truth. He trusted me to not do anything until he heard the truth from me. To me this was one of my first lessons in leadership empathy.

Look, we all make mistakes. Sometimes they are really expensive, sometimes they are not. I have had employees over the years make mistakes that cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars. Did I fire that employee? NO! But, we made sure we learned from the mistake and did everything we could to make sure NO ONE else made the same mistake.

OCTOBER 2002, 2 PM LONDON ENGLAND CUSTOMER’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS OFFICE

I had prepared exceedingly well. I knew exactly what this customer needed to do to solve their issues and get our software implemented. I had done dozens of successful software implementations. I KNEW what was needed and I was INTENT on explaining this to our customers’ CEO.

I was thrown out of the building.

Get the hell out of my office you SMUG American

In hindsight, of COURSE, I was thrown out of the building. He was the CEO, I was a vendor and I felt compelled to tell HIM why HE was the reason for OUR non-performance.

I was a dumbass. Period.

My boss, the owner of this company is a very successful software entrepreneur. I was fortunate to be working with him after my first startup had failed spectacularly. He had advised me that perhaps my messaging for that meeting was a bit “Inflammatory”. Nope, I’m doing this. I’m right.

He wanted to grab some drinks after work, which was his way of getting status from his executives. I came in, feeling quite low and had to explain that he was right and I was wrong and I had been thrown out of his customer’s office. His response still surprised me. “What did we learn?”. Well, for starters I learned not to be a dumbass.

Once again, I told the truth and as a leader, he chose to be empathetic and he chose to invest in me as his employee versus punish me.

Years later, I’ve been faced with countless situations where an employee “messed up”. And every time, the experience I had with these two leaders is now part of my DNA in decision making.

Now my default position is to trust the employee first, and look for the learning and grow from the experience.

Next time you are in a position to judge a mistake, stop and think about what we learned and make an investment in your employee.

It will pay dividends.

What I learned in one sentence from a grumpy, wise old man.

When Mentors Die

We had just unveiled our new corporate brand.   We had hired a professional marketing firm, done customer studies, acquired a domain, designed a logo and registered a trademark.   We thought it was the most important decision we had made.

We unveiled the name to our board.    “Tada”.

Silence.

One of our independent board members looked at me and simply said:

“Well, as long as it doesn’t mean f**king a goat in Portuguese, then I’m OK”.

Sam K in a board meeting

The facts are, the name we chose at that point in our company, was pretty much irrelevant.   What mattered was execution, something we were struggling with. He in a very powerful way slapped us back into reality.

Earlier in the venture, he had observed me running around our offices, often carrying a little notebook, taking notes, being busy, busy busy.    I was busy “helping” our team. I was busy “creating our plan”, our “vision”, keeping investors in-check, validating that what we were building was right.  Come on, I was IMPORTANT and being IMPORTANT means being BUSY.

He looked at me and simply said:

“Charlie, you will be more effective the less you do”.   

Sam K Smith speaking to Charlie Alsmiller in 2002

I was speechless.   I was an ex-consultant in a big firm.  My whole value was measured by how hard I worked, how much “value” I created TODAY.    This is counter-intuitive to me. “Do less”? What? How does that work? I didn’t get it.  

“Work on your business, not In your business”

A quote from just about every business book out there

We hear the words, “Work ON your business, not IN your business” all the time.  But, I’m here to tell you, truer words have never been spoken. See, we all have super-powers.  Mine was clearly articulated to me recently by a dear friend. He said, “You have the ability to create something from nothing, and energy shows up around it.   I’m in awe.”. And this from a guy who is a VERY senior and well known tech executive in Silicon Valley. I’ve always been in awe of HIM. But, what he admitted to me is he CAN’T create something from scratch.  I can, it’s my superpower. The facts are, I should ONLY spend time on MY superpower, not his or anyone else’s for that matter. I’ll be more effective the LESS I do. Boom.

Sam K was a fine man.   In Dallas, he was a legend. He ran Texas Instruments for many years.   For some reason he liked me. He was retired, but respect followed him everywhere he went.  He counseled countless young entrepreneurs like me, reminding us through his wisdom and that what we are doing is often way less important than we thought.  And his occasional “F-bomb” in the boardroom NEVER went unnoticed.

Sam died a few years ago.   I was unable to attend his funeral, but it hit me hard.  Not only because I missed him, but because I realized how linear our lives can be.    Looking around, I see the senior figures in my life retiring. Dying. I know it’s the natural order, and I realized that for every person like me that was helped by someone like Sam there’s someone I can help.  

This last year, I faced down cancer and won.  I was the lucky one.  

Many aren’t so lucky.  I have been given years now to give back.  Suddenly the fancy car, the ski-chalet the boat don’t seem so important.    What’s important is helping the next generation.   

And yes, I’m still looking, waiting patiently to repeat Sam’s words about that goat in a board meeting.   

Caring for your Caregivers, Even the Money Ones….

Everybody is constantly complaining about their insurance companies. I’ve posted many times about Medi-share and our experience there. I thought I would share this internal employee newsletter where they featured my story with their employees.

I think it’s important to remember the team of people behind you when you get hit with something, in my case, an ugly disease which was made much less stressful without the “fiscal duress” of unstable insurance or cost containment strategies.

Here’s the article.

February 4th is World Cancer Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness and education about cancer. CCM employees serve hundreds of cancer patients each month, Charlie is just one of them. 

Charlie went in for surgery in July of 2019 believing his tumor was benign. It wasn’t and he learned he would need extensive radiation treatment.

In Charlie’s words, “So this cancer journey isn’t cheap. Radiation, I understand costs roughly $3500-$4000 PER SESSION. I will be having thirty. That’s an estimated cost of $180,000-$200,000. Needless to say, I was feeling a bit anxious about the fiscal part of this journey.”

“I was literally sitting in my car waiting to go in for my first radiation treatment when I get a call from Medi-Share’s VP of Cost Management. He tells me not only are my bills fully shareable but he asks my permission to pre-pay all 30 treatments. I was speechless and incredibly thankful. For all the people who criticize Med-Share, I can’t say enough. These people are amazing! I am a member for life or as long as they’ll have me.”

Cancer is a scary diagnosis not only the physical hardship but add to that the economic ramifications. Never forget that your service to these families is priceless. Your prayers, your interventions on their behalf, your service to make sharing a reality are making a huge difference in their lives. 

Thank you to all of you who directly serviced Charlie and his family.

You are the story…

Being vs. Doing – Christmas Reflections after a year of curveballs

Merry Christmas to all this year!


This year threw us some curveballs, including cancer, a huge business opportunity and a new home to renovate. I was just reviewing my goals for last year and oddly, they are largely under-achieved. Yet, those goals said nothing of headwinds or taking advantage of what’s in front of you.
This year God has given me a new lens which I am fortunate to be able to use. So, I need to use it.


My “goals” also said nothing of being thankful for where we are in life, including health, family and general happiness.


So my “goal” for this next year is to be OK, with “just being”, including being thankful for where you are not just where I am going. It’s not my path anyway. Disclaimer, I will still be working hard on my goals…but with a different lens.

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”

Wayne W. Dyer


Thank you all for being so supportive this last year, we’ve felt the love and prayers…..