The Stories in Stacks of Business Cards

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Conferences, Practical Leadership
This week I’m pleased to bring you my guest post on the Society of American Military Engineer’s Bricks & Clicks Blog. Be sure to click the link and show them some love!
Photo courtesy of SAME

Every time I come back from the Society of American Military Engineers Joint Engineer Training Conference (“JETC”), I find myself sorting through a stack of business cards. Each one of those cards tells a story: a new person I’ve met or a colleague I’ve reconnected with after not seeing for a while. In those stacks of business cards, there’s the thread of my story that’s connected with others in the Society.

That connection with others in the community is the thing I love most about coming to what I humbly believe is the best annual conference of any professional organization. There are lots of great conferences out there, but I think JETC is special.

What Makes Us Special

“We are establishing at this time a Society of American Military Engineers. This society will serve no selfish purpose. It is dedicated to patriotism and national security. Its objects are, in brief, to promote solidarity and co-operation between engineers in civil and military life, to disseminate technical knowledge bearing upon progress in the art of war and the application of engineering science thereto, and to preserve and maintain the best standards and traditions of the profession, all in the interests of patriotism and national security.” –The Military Engineer magazine, January 1920

Like many professionals, I belong to several professional societies and service organizations. They all have their virtues of course, but the chief virtue of SAME is its enduring purpose: dedicated to patriotism and national security. Most professional associations exist for the primary benefit of the members. Professional growth, networking, and of course community service are all worthy goals. The thing about SAME is that both those in government and in industry are committed first to national service in the defense of our country.

It’s the calling of engineers whose credo is to first serve the public good. It’s that common sense of mission and purpose that creates a community of some of the best people I know. It’s what makes us special.

Always Learning

Another thread revealed in that stack of business cards is the memories of the talks I heard, and conversations had over those three days at the 2018 JETC in Kansas City. It’s interesting how the subject matter and education tracks have evolved over time.

This year, there were more and more sessions about the implementation of digital and disruptive technology that gives our government colleagues and industry teammates a competitive edge in an increasingly complex global defense environment. It’s always fun to see a card and reflect on the conversations we had during JETC, and see the continuous evolution of our profession and our Society is energizing to watch.

Rewards, Friendships, Heroes

A member of the SAME National Office staff once referred to JETC as a “SAME love fest.” When I smiled and asked what she meant, she explained that because of the social events, the Post awards, and the Society Ball, it was a chance for the members to reconnect and show their affection and appreciation for each other.

She is right: the mood of the conference reflects that sense of community and collegiality. It’s fun to see people recognized for their tremendous work to further the profession and grow the Society’s reach. I particularly enjoy seeing people I know who have worked without fanfare or seeking recognition heralded publicly for their contributions.

Looking Forward to Next Year

Of course, it goes without saying the keynotes are always inspiring, this year particularly so. As a “Greyshirt” myself, meeting Team Rubicon founder Jake Wood and hearing his story of continued service was motivating. It’s experiences like that, along with the opportunity to renew old friendships as well as make new ones, that speak to me from those stacks of business cards.

The call for presentations for the 2018 Small Business Conference is already out, and there’s a lot of business that gets done at that one, so don’t miss it. Of course, the 2019 JETC in Tampa, Fla., is just around the corner as well: less than 350 days and counting!

I should have worked my way through all those cards by then.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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Deer Me

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Part of the charm of our new home in Texas has got to be the wildlife. We live near Landa Park and Panther Canyon, and so we see deer, grey fox, possums, raccoons, owls, and scores of songbirds on a daily basis. Despite being in the heart of New Braunfels, we’re still a small enough town to have deer roaming free and there’s a rather large herd that lives in our neighborhood.  After living on the Windward Side of Oahu for four years, and in the foothills of the Front Range for two years before that, it’s a welcome lifestyle for my bride and me to be away from the city and immersed in a more natural state.

The Texas Hill Country is by far my favorite part of the State. I grew up in Ft Worth, on the edge of the Great Plains and surrounded by rivers and lakes. Even as much as I sorely miss my beloved Pacific Ocean and the Hawaiian Islands (who wouldn’t?), the Texas Hill Country offers spectacular views and interesting wildlife. This on top of the funky mix of Anglo, Mexican, Indian, Czech, and German influences.

Of course, the most welcome surprise for us were the deer. My sweet bride is my very own Snow White. She has a way with the animals and they seem to instinctively see her as a friend, or even a mother. It doesn’t matter whether it’s deer, birds, ducks, dogs, cats, cows – wallabies – the animals sense her sweet nature and approach her.

We started with just a few does who grazed a slept along the back fence and in a large bush in the backyard. Soon the herd began to grow! At present, there are two groups who frequent the yard: the ones I call “The Breakfast Club” and the “Afternoon Tea” group. Some folks attract the deer with piles of corn, but we’ve really fed them sparingly. We try to respect nature and never feed the wild things too much or too often. A little corn, oats and woody feed in the winter, and uncooked veggie scraps from the kitchen. Of course, there’s always water available for the birds and critters; my bride always wants to care for the ones who have trouble caring for themselves.

One little guy in particular has been a special friend. There were two late-season fawns, we named them “Jack” and “Chip.” The photo at right (I know it’s not very good), is Chip. Jack eventually stopped coming around as he grew up and started running with the bucks. But Chip was small and stayed with his mom. He is a very sweet little guy and immediately took to my wife, Snow White.  He hears her when she’s outside, and follows her around like a little puppy.

It’s not uncommon to see Chip appear at our back door, or front door, looking for a handout or just wanting to be near my wife. He was SO little I think he truly sees her as part of the herd!

Of course, Chip is not the only deer who seems to know where the veggie scraps and corn comes from. Occasionally deer will appear at our back door and press their noses against the glass. You hate to reward that kind of behavior, but sometimes they’re just so stinkin’ cute it’s hard to say no.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We even had a Christmas visitor looking into the house – the one we call Big Buck. We were sitting on the couch reading when Snow White said, “Mickey, look at the back door.” When I  looked up from my book, there was what I could only describe as Santa’s Texas Contingent peeking into the window checking up on us. I hope he reported back good things!

It was interesting to see the turning of the seasons: spring and summer fawns growing up, bucks and does separating into groups, yearling bucks getting their first horns, rut, pregnant does, and the winter followed by spring movement of the herd. The bucks especially, fresh off their first conquests and sorting into the hierarchy of Alphas and the rest were bolder in the winter.  I supposed that contributed to Big Buck’s decision to sign up for Santa’s Texas Contingent and report back to the North Pole on our fitness for St Nick’s visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll be moving from this house at the end of the summer to our “permanent” residence here in Comal County. I’m certain Snow White will soon be “mom” to a host of sweet little animals who will grace us with their innocent affection. When we move, we’ll take some great memories with us.

 

 

 

 

 


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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I Want to be Like Andy Taylor

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Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, NC

The Andy Griffith Show has some of the most beloved characters in television, even to this day. Mayberry, the fictional town where Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) worked, is the synonymous with the America “back when” that probably never really ever existed anywhere but in our hearts. Reality television has replaced the idyllic version of American life. Our entertainment now is replete with the warts and frailties of real human beings enhanced by screenwriters and producers that seem to find new ways daily to appeal to the worst in us. It’s not their fault, really: it’s ours; if we didn’t buy the stuff they wouldn’t sell it.

What I Really Mean is…

This is not a culture-bashing post–it’s an appeal for us all to try harder to be better. You see, it’s those characters in Mayberry that I think I love the most, rather than the fiction of white picket fences and simple times. The inhabitants of Mayberry are human, of course, in a corny and even simple way. It is art after all, and for art to appeal to a broad audience we have to take some artistic license. Shakespeare did it, Homer did it, Jane Austen, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Mary Shelly, Andy Weir, W.E.B. Griffin–all authors simplify and symbolize things to tell the story. You see, it’s the message delivered by the author in the story and it’s characters that’s important. Mayberry is therefore more symbolic than it is reflective. As it should be with art.

Why I Like Andy

I like Andy Taylor because of the qualities he embodies. In Andy we see a genuinely honest man who does his best to do his duty and raise his son. He values virtue, he works hard, he is tough when he needs to be and merciful when he should be. Andy is a friend to everyone, but nobody’s fool. He’s always looking out for others even when they don’t deserve it. He upholds the law, but not blindly. He has faults, and makes mistakes, but he forgives and forgets readily and never holds a grudge. When he does something to injure someone else, he does his best to make amends. He avoids cross words, and rarely raises his voice. He doesn’t allow indecency or vice into his life, but he doesn’t judge those who do. Andy Taylor is a good man.

No matter how symbolic, Mayberry was not isolated from the America of the day. Even in that small fictional town in North Carolina sometimes an ill wind blew in danger and vice. Sheriff Taylor dealt with domestic abuse, alcoholism, sexism, snobbery by the rich toward the poor, theft, and of course the ordinary human vices of avarice, greed, lust, pride, etc. The difference between other shows then and now is how Andy handled those issues, and how he rose above his own personal frailties to serve others. Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) in Blue Bloods probably comes closest to Andy’s approach than any other modern character.

Why it Matters

Modern politics, be it in the public sphere or in the office, is honestly not terribly different than it ever has been. People are people, and always have been. If you don’t believe me, Google “political cartoons from ____” and fill in the year. During the founding of our Republic, there was no shortage of harsh and even disgraceful words between those who wanted a confederation of independent states, and those who wanted a republic. When debating issues of the day during the 19th century, men often settled disputes with pistols at 10 paces. In the 20th century it got now better–name calling, fear mongering, racism–all part of the public life of the country. In the 21st century, we’re about the same I suppose.

Sometimes, though, we forget that during the same time that men did terrible things to each other, men also did great and beautiful things as well. The same world where tyrants and criminals live is the same world inhabited by people who create art, industry, innovation, care for the earth and people around them, and yes, even characters like Andy Taylor.

Who I Want to Be

Andy Taylor is a fictional character, of course, but he’s the literary embodiment of the kind of man I’d like to be. In this troubled time, we need more men of character like Andy. We need to be the kind of person who seeks to serve others, who avoids the “glamour of evil” and is deliberate about what goes into their minds and hearts. For me, well, I want to be more like Andy.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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Resiliency is a Team Sport

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This past week I’ve had the great privilege to be a volunteer at the Air Force Trials for the DoD Warrior Games. The Warrior Games are a paralympic-style competition for military athletes who were wounded in battle, seriously ill, or injured while on active duty. My firm is a sponsor of the Games, and so I was honored to spend 4 days at the Air Force Trials as a volunteer. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for me to be in the company of more than 120 athletes from three countries, their caregivers, and the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) staff. As you might expect, I got far more than I gave.

I wrote on my Instagram page an abbreviated “take-away” from that week:

Baby gear, mobility aids, dog kennels… reminders that our #AFW2 athletes are members of families and communities. Husbands, wives, sweethearts, fathers, mothers. Things that come easily for most are daily challenges to conquer for these athletes.

I rarely see the struggle in their eyes. What I see is determination, courage, and even joy — determination to continue to live out their lives with purpose, courage to conquer adversity, and the joy of another sunrise with the ones dear to them in the country they love.  

“Don’t Go to the Dark Place”

“Don’t go to the Dark Place” is the warning caregivers and mentors give to their loved ones. The words are mine, of course, but the message is the same. It’s a plea and a shot of strength at the same time. I think many people live with a door that leads to the “Dark Place.” It’s the place in their lives where all their failures are on display, where the light and warmth of the love of family and friends is absent, where the Evil One shouts accusations in the cold darkness. The door to the Dark Place opens when we have trauma in our lives, and sometimes it becomes the path of least resistance.

For most people, it becomes impossible to leave the Dark Place on their own. That’s where AFW2 comes in.

Many of the AFW2 athletes and their caregivers have been to that Dark Place, or at least to the threshold. They know the darkness of a flash and waking up in a hospital half a world away from their last memory and missing limbs. Or perhaps the darkness of hearing the word “cancer” through the buzzing rush of blood in their ears. For some, it was the unspeakable trauma of sexual assault by someone who should’ve been a brother and not a threat.

When those terrible events occur in our lives, that door to the Dark Place opens. The Dark Place even looks comforting to some at first. But in short order, the Dark Place becomes a cold and binding vice sucking joy away from you like a frigid night. For most people, it becomes impossible to leave the Dark Place on their own. That’s where AFW2 comes in.

Resiliency is a Team Sport

To fight the Dark Place, you need a store of personal resiliency and a team around you to support you. There are physical battles to overcome, but the real battle is in the soul. Military people learn early on to endure physical challenges. Pain is a familiar battleground, and we know that terrain. A team around you helps with the physical battle, of course, but at some level, we all learn to compartmentalize discomfort and pain and get the mission done. The soul is new terrain–and to battle there you need help. The AFW2 program is the team to help their fellow Airmen stay in the light.

…through sport and the camaraderie of the Games, they learn to focus on a new purpose.

When we talk about “personal resiliency,” we tend to focus on skills the individual can employ to keep themselves moving forward when everything in their lives seems to be pushing them into “the dark place.” Each of the Warriors who tried out for the Games this week has a team around them to encourage them and help them stay in the light of recovery. For most of them, their “normal” will never be what it was before they were injured.

However, through sport and the camaraderie of the Games, they learn to focus on a new purpose. Severe trauma drains a person’s battery of personal resiliency quickly, and those batteries have to be recharged by others. Enter AFW2 and the caregivers. Everyone learns skills to cope and strength to stay in the light.

The Daily Battle and Daily Victory

Each of the AFW2 athletes fights a new battle every day. For some, they will return to a semblance of normal, but others will have to redefine themselves and pursue the Light every day. They’ll get tired, they’ll be inspired, they’ll get discouraged, they’ll win small victories. Each day will bring unexpected challenges and sometimes defeats. There will also be unexpected wins and light that will buoy them for another day or more. A few will even return to active duty and continue to serve in uniform.

These are not people who choose the easy way, and they’ve decided not to give up.

It’s not the victories nor the defeats that define these men and women. What defines them is their resilient spirit and their courage in the face of obstacles that seem insurmountable. Giving up is the easiest thing to do. These are not people who choose the easy way, and they’ve decided not to give up.

To be sure, none of them would choose to go through what they’ve endured. What they have chosen, however, is to close the door to the Dark Place and seek out the light. I was inspired by these Airmen and the awesome team of caregivers and supporters around them. They’re all heroes and athletes in my book.

Edited 3/5 to embed the Instagram post and make minor edits.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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The Human Connection is the Foundation of Respect

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(Photo: James Cridland)

One of the games I play to keep myself amused during trips is to make up stories in my head about the people I see walking by in airports or other public places. I give them names, try to guess at their destinations, and the reasons for their travel.

That’s Gladys Simpson. She’s a 48 year old traveling photographer, mother of two boys (Delwin and Delbert), on her way to an assignment to shoot the elusive Andean Snow Turtle. Her husband, Roland, is an HVAC technician and worked overtime so she could afford the new photo rig in her bag. It’s her first assignment after raising her family and now she’s pursuing her passion in a second career.

Sometimes the stories are a little silly like that, and sometimes the faces I see inspire a much more somber story.

He’s forgotten his real name because no one calls him by it anymore. Everyone just calls him “Buddy” as he pushes his shopping cart full of odds and ends around. “Buddy” mumbles to himself as he walks down the street looking for a place to rest before he’s forced to move again. In between random thoughts about a Parcheesi game he played as a kid, and trying to remember the color of his socks, he thinks to himself that he hopes that nice policeman comes by tonight. He feels safer when the policeman stands nearby. The street bullies don’t bother him when the cops are there and he can relax. Blue! His socks are blue!

Humans Need Each Other

Why did I take you down this little side trip? Because, humanity. We need a lot more of it.

The theme of this month’s posts is “Respect”, but a collision of religious, societal, and current events caused me to shift a bit this week. First, there’s the once in several decades overlap of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. Valentine’s Day is an invitation to erotic love and the second is a call to filial love and repentance. Then there’s the shooting in Florida that happened today. “Tragedy” seems to small a word to encompass the hell that dozens of families are experiencing tonight. There ought to be stronger words.

What in the world do all these thing have to do with each other? The answer is human connection and love for one another. The beauty of erotic love can be twisted when we objectify others. Religion becomes a social club if we don’t connect with the Divine and our faith community. Disturbed people harm others when they’re left on their own to fester. Teams, companies, and families fall apart when the members don’t invest in the people around them.

Be Deliberate, Give Them a Chance

We pass by others every day and don’t look at their faces. Each one of them is just like you and me: they have their own stories complete with triumph and tragedy. Some need more help than others, some are more successful than others, but each one is a singularly unique creation worthy of respect and yes, love. We use our words on social media to bludgeon and wound rather than to seek understanding. There is a way out, though.

When I was in the Air Force, I always accepted the people that no one else wanted. Most of the time all those people needed was someone to believe in them and give them a chance to succeed. Of course not everyone succeeded–people have different skills and sometimes their vices overwhelm their virtues–but I had about an 80% success rate with the “misfits” others didn’t want. The core truth, though, is that regardless of ability or success, each person deserves to be respected.

Don’t Walk By

Malcolm Forbes once said that he could judge the character of a man by the way he treated those who could do nothing for him, or to him. A well-known CEO always interviews potential hires at a restaurant to see how they treat the waitstaff. Human connection matters. If we walk by other people heedless of their humanity as if they’re objects to be navigated around, we surrender a little bit of what makes us human. We certainly don’t have to engage with everyone around us, but we should notice and respect their humanity.

After a tragedy like what happened in Florida today, people often make “I knew something wasn’t right” comments. Right now, a lot of people are asking, “why?” How many of us notice the homeless people we pass on the street to get our coffee? When was the last time we asked our co-workers about their families, or showed genuine concern when it was obvious they weren’t feeling well or were distraught about something? It’s a question we need to ask ourselves daily. We don’t have to be saints, but we ought to try.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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Respect for Persons

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The national conversation about how men and women should treat each other is a valuable conversation for leaders and high achievers to have. It’s everyone’s responsibility to create and sustain a culture of respect, and for leaders it’s particularly important. We have learned a great deal about ourselves and our culture of late. I’ve always thought of history as a bit like eating a watermelon: eat the good stuff and spit out the seeds. Time to take a bite and see what we can discern.

No Person is an Object

In our hypersexualized culture, it’s easy to simply get accustomed to the objectification of others. We should resist that. People are not things; each person is a unique creation worthy of basic human dignity and respect. As I write in Leading Leaders,

Beyond mere adherence to the law, respect is recognizing that another human being has the same value as I do because they are [they exist], not because of what they do, how much money they make, or what clothes they wear. Now, I can certainly perform rote behaviors and parrot legal scripts when dealing with others, but to truly show respect, that has to come from the heart. Again, I don’t have to condone behavior or agree with beliefs that don’t match my own; but the skilled leader, the effective leader, separates behavior from personhood and can show respect to anyone regardless of differences.

When we allow ourselves to view another human being, not as a person with their own agency but as an object to be manipulated or used, we are violating the basic tenet of “Respect.” People are of course responsible for their own actions, but we have a parallel responsibility to treat others with respect and to protect the vulnerable persons from harm. This means sticking up for people who can’t stick up for themselves, and it also means supporting others when they do stick up for themselves.

I believe men have a special responsibility here to be protectors. That is not to say that women cannot be protectors as well, of course that’s true, but since most sexual assault and harassment happens because men do it to women, men have a special responsibility to act to stop other men. We men also have a special responsibility to set a good example to other men about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Crimes are Not Mistakes

I’m sure everyone can immediately think of a case where someone has crossed the line criminally when it comes to sexual assault or harassment. Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar’s names are now synonymous with “sexual assault.” Columnists and bloggers have written pages and pages; victims have voiced their stories. There has been “collateral damage” in the reputations of some men and a few women, who didn’t cross the line into a “crime” but were nonetheless boorish at best and objectified others at worst. These stories are painful and gut-wrenching for anyone to hear, and they all point to two common themes being abundantly clear. Abusers invariably:

  1. Objectified another person, usually a woman, for the purpose of sexual gratification.
  2. Allowed by others to continue to do their dirty work without correction or being reported to the authorities because of their power, influence, or connections.

Often people tried to “handle things” quietly, or even turned a blind eye to “protect an institution” or company. These people treated these crimes as mere mistakes; crimes are not mistakes.

What It All Means

It’s tempting to reflect on the “Good Old Days,” but that’s a fool’s errand for two reasons. First the “Good Old Days” weren’t always good for everyone, and second, what’s past is past–what we do in the future is what matters. We’ve learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t in our culture in the past 30 years, we need to be mature enough men and women to apply those lessons.

Regardless of how you feel about the Sexual Revolution, I think many of us could agree that we’re not happier people today than we were before the Sexual Revolution. There’s even a case to be made that the Weinstiens of the world were emboldened when we made sex a recreational activity rather than a powerful connection between people. We ought to be brave enough as a society to learn from our mistakes and make adjustments–not out of fear of reprisal, but because it’s the right way to treat each other and ourselves. We can have our own opinions about the relationship between sex, marriage, and family, but I think we can also agree to respect the power of those things in the human mind and heart. Mature persons respect that power and don’t risk their own well being in a cost-benefit analysis that has a poor margin.

It’s good that women have taken their rightful place in society as full participants. It’ll be better if all people, and especially women, can assume they’ll be treated with respect for who they are as persons without qualification. I think it’s time we take the good lessons of the past 30 years and spit out the seeds, don’t you?


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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Use Words If Necessary

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There’s an oft-repeated quote attributed a popular saint, St Francis of Assisi, that speaks to the heart of today’s post; specifically that actions speak louder than words. The quote goes: Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.  No, I’ve not turned this into a religion blog; the point is that what we do is at least as important (if not more) as what we say.

As leaders, we know that if we expect others to do what we ask, we have to be willing to do those things ourselves. We cannot expect others to follow us if they cannot trust that we are competent and worthy of their trust. How do we build that trust? We model the behavior we expect of others, and we walk with the team we’re leading. Leaders lead from the front, not from behind. It’s a basic truism of leadership.

Illegal, Immoral, or Fattening

There is a popular idea in the last two decades that one can separate their “personal” and “professional” lives. That is patently and demonstrably false. I think of it this way: I cannot be one person on Sunday morning, and turn into a different person on Monday. Whatever I permit myself to do on one evening will follow me into the next day. One of the common threads I’ve seen of all the men and women who’ve fallen from grace–both public figures and private citizens–is they have a secret life exposed. Time after time I’ve witnessed generals, politicians, business leaders, and even friends and family face personal and professional calamity as a result of their “personal” or “private” lives suddenly intruding on their “public” or “professional” lives. As if they were two separate people.

“If you’re doing something you don’t want your mother to know about, it’s either illegal, immoral, or fattening.” -Mom

The irony is that virtually every time the person facing professional consequences for their personal choices, they look surprised. As my mother used to say, “If you’re doing something you don’t want your mother to know about, it’s either illegal, immoral, or fattening.” Things that happened even decades prior have a way of finding their way into the light of day, and people face consequences. Just look no further than the case of Dr. Larry Nassar who recently went to prison for the sexual assault. He probably thought he’d gotten away with it, but eventually, the truth came out. I have a former colleague who also went to prison for 8 years after his accusers came forward 20 years later. Sooner or later the chickens always come home to roost.

Can’t Serve Two Masters

The idea that somehow a person can be of low moral character or simply make immoral and destructive choices without professional or public consequences is a recent development in our society. This is not to say that there have not been immoral, even evil, people in the past; of course there have been and there will continue to be in the future. What’s different in the last 20 years or so is we’ve apparently decided that “what a man does in his private life is none of our concern.” Of course, that’s not true. If a man is a thief or a liar at home or with his wife, what makes us think he can be trusted to tell the truth at other times? If a woman is dishonest in her dealings with others when she’s away from work, how can we expect her to be honest at work?

The proverb, “A man cannot serve two masters” is accurate. The fundamental truth about humans is we are integrated persons–body, mind, and soul. The body is easy to see, the mind is revealed when we speak and act, and it’s clear to each of us that as Yoda says, “we’re more than just this crude matter.” This union of physical, mental, and soul makes it impossible for us to separate private doings from public or professional personas. Some people are adept at suppressing the internal contradictions for a while, but eventually either their mind, body, or spirit “breaks.”

Who Do You Want to Be?

Leading ourselves or others means talking less and acting more. Your colleagues, your team, even your kids will pay far more attention to what you do versus what you say. If you want your kids to be kind, show kindness. If you want your employees to be punctual, then be on time. If you expect your spouse to be tidy, get rid of your own clutter. When you meet someone who has “their act together,” what do you notice first, their words or their actions? It’s what they do that you notice first: how they conduct their affairs, how they treat others.

As a very simple level, the question each of us must answer is, “Who do I want to be?” As fragile and fallible human beings, we shouldn’t expect perfection of ourselves but we should always strive for it. Envisioning the kind of person we want to be, then reaching for that vision of ourselves, is a way to journey constantly to being the healthy and successful person we can be. When we learn to accept that we’re not perfect but are on a journey of constant growth and improvement. We accept our failings, beg forgiveness if necessary, and resolve to do better today–sometimes with the help of grace offered. That’s way of perfection.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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Life Lessons from Surfing

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Just take your time – wave comes. Let the other guys go, catch another one. -Duke Kahanamoku, Legendary Hawaiian Waterman

Surfing became a part of my life later than most. Other than the one time my Dad and I rented a board in Corpus Christi, Texas to try to surf the Gulf shorebreak, I was 30 years old before I got on a surfboard. To say that learning to surf was life changing seems trite, but it’s true nonetheless. Like golf, surfing is a sport that one takes a lifetime to master and is also a metaphor for life. I can vividly remember the feeling: the smell of the ocean, the roar of the waves, the anticipation after spotting a ride-able set approaching, and the exhilaration of that first feeling of lightness as the wave picks you up and you feel like you’re gliding over the water.

Life Lessons from Surfing, I try to share the lessons I’ve learned from two decades of trying to understand the “one-ness” of ocean-surfboard-man. I am by no means an expert–I still miss more waves than I catch–but I’ve been at it long enough to distill some truths from feeling the ocean and waiting for the right moment to launch myself down the face of a wave.

The Lessons

Paddle Out Often. The first lesson for surfing is to actually go surf. You can’t learn to surf sitting on your couch watching surf videos, and you can’t lead people from behind your desk or grow personally without engagement in life. Life requires us to be in harmony with others, with ourselves, with God. That harmony only comes with engagement. In an era when it’s very easy to simply sit on the couch and interact with the world through a screen, my challenge to you is to “Paddle Out.”

Keep Your Eye on the Waves. It’s an old adage to “never turn your back on the sea,” and the reason it’s an old adage is because it’s true. The ocean isn’t predictable and it requires your full attention. The moment you start getting complacent and daydream in the lineup is the moment some big wave will come thrash you! Complacency will also rob you of opportunities to ride the perfect wave. In life, it’s the same idea. If we remain engaged in life we’ll be ready when the next opportunity presents itself. Being engaged means deliberately cultivating relationships and seeking to serve others. Figuratively keeping your eyes on the waves of life is a sure-fire formula for avoiding the “coulda-shouldas” later in life.

Choose the Right Board for the Conditions. To non-surfers all boards probably look basically the same, but even casual surfers know you match the board to the conditions. Like choosing the right board, choosing the right person as a business partner or the right opportunity is the difference between and “epic ride” and a “wipeout.” If something feels forced, then that’s a good signal to examine the situation and ensure you’re a good fit. It’s also about pursuing things in life where you thrive instead of merely survive. Metaphorically choosing the right board in life implies we have some knowledge of what we’re doing. Over the last 22 years I’ve surfed I never stopped learning–either by talking to others more experienced than I or practice. Life is the same way: never stop learning and always seek to find a place where you “fit.”

Don’t Fight the Current. It’s a cliché that surfers are some of the most laid back and easygoing people you’ll ever meet, but there’s some truth to that. I think the reason is because really serious surfers are good at reading the wind and waves while waiting for that perfect time to drop in. Like the surfer who chases every wave instead of patiently watching and waiting for the right time, the over-engaged person will be exhausted when it’s really important to be fresh. It’s easy, particularly this time of year, to become overly enthusiastic and a bit too optimistic about our own energy reserves. You can become exhausted trying to do and be too much. Spend your energy wisely. Choose where you gain energy and spend it primarily on those activities. Adults have to do things that sometimes drain our batteries, but if everything drains your batteries then you won’t be able to do anything well.

Have Fun. Surfing isn’t supposed to be work; it’s supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun you’re probably doing it wrong. Trust me, if you’re not having fun nobody else around will either! Again, achieving in this life often requires sacrifice and hard work, but healthy people look for ways to enjoy even the hard times. It’s the reason for the dark humor of soldiers who joke about their conditions, and it’s the reason for the inside jokes people make in bad office environments. The life lesson from surfing, then, is to have a good attitude and have fun (and make sure you’re not the reason nobody is having fun!).

Surf Your Life, Don’t Get Thrashed

Life, like the ocean, can be a place of discovery and wonder or storms and danger. Engaging in our life actively and seeking harmony is the best method I’ve found for being the sort of person we were to be, and the kind of person who achieves what we want out of life.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straighforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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Living Life in Balance

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Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. – Albert Einstein

When my son was very young, he would give me the same advice as I left for work each day: “Goodbye, Daddy; have a good day at work. Be sure to drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.”  Without realizing it, my son was encouraging me to live a balanced life. I always thought his farewell each day was far more insightful than just a small boy’s simple advice. In fact, it’s a great way to think about life balance.

People Are Multidimensional

There are many ways to understand and dissect the topic of life balance. My model consists of three focus areas: body, mind, and spirit. Others use health, wealth, and friends, or work/life. The U.S. Air Force has an outstanding approach to balancing the demands of work and life in their Comprehensive Airman Fitness Model, which takes the familiar mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions and adds a fourth, social. Additionally, there’s the familiar Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”.

No matter how you slice up the facets of the human person, the takeaway is that humans are multidimensional. Therefore, we all should be deliberate about developing our whole person and not just one aspect. Each person has a body, mind, and the intangible part of themselves called a soul or human spirit. There is more to every person than meets the eye.

Well-Rounded is Fulfilled

Being a well-rounded person means trying to determine what motivates and fulfills you, and then intentionally working to harmonize those very personal needs with the needs of your family, team, or workplace. It’s more than a mere transaction; leaders must recognize that their team is more than names on an organizational chart. Each is a person with needs and aspirations of their own, who have come together to do a job for their own reasons. As individuals, we need to understand our personal engagement with those around us is just as important as our self-awareness.

The companies consistently rated “best to work for” seem to understand that idea. Those companies provide benefits that let the employees know they are valued for more than just their contribution to the bottom line, but also valued as people. In each case, the employees at the top-rated companies enjoy their work environment; the benefits provided are a bonus. The companies that treat their employees as whole persons, with more than a single dimension, are the ones who get the most engaged and involved employees, in return.

Remember Those Simple Words

The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, stop for a minute and remember the words of my then four-year-old son: “drink your water, eat your lunch, and make new friends.”

Living life balance is challenging. There are a lot of demands on a person’s time: work, family, friends, hobbies, etc., and finding time to feed all aspects of the body and soul is key to any successful life. Anyone can put their head down and power through life, however, it takes a mature person to understand that how you live is equally important as what you accomplish. Keeping our lives in balance and living an integrated life is important to everyone.

The preceding is an excerpt adapted from my book The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life. You can learn more about it here.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straighforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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Tourist in My New Hometown

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Leaving Hawaii for the second time to return to the Mainland was extremely difficult for my bride and I. Not because we don't love our family or the land of our birth--we do--but because once you've tasted Paradise it's awfully hard not to compare everything else to that.

We lived in a little town on the Windward Side of O'ahu called Kailua (Hawaiian: "Two Waters"), where I could slide my kayak or standup paddle board off the back steps and paddle to the warm Pacific Ocean any time I wanted. It was a lovely little town filled with the spirit of Aloha and with a strong sense of healthy community. We formed strong friendships in those four years, and renewed our love of those islands after being away for 11 years after our last four year tour.

Landa Park - Wurstfest

However, work and family brought us home, and so we searched for a similar "vibe" in the Greater San Antonio area and found it in New Braunfels. We instantly fell in love with the beautiful mix of German, Czech, Mexican, and American culture here. As we always did during our 16 moves-in-30-year Air Force career, we became tourists in our new home. 

Imagine a small Texas town with dozens of live music venues, brew pubs, shops, and eateries--and of course Wurstfest, our little version of Munich's Oktoberfest!

 

Of course the first draw for me was water, and there is a LOT here in New Braunfels. The city sits at the confluence of the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers; the former spring-fed and the latter fed from the Edwards Aquifer and Canyon Lake. They're both fun for tubing, kayaking, and rafting!

With the Comal at a constant 75 degrees all the time, it's actually accessible year-round in the mild Texas winters.

Ich Bin Klein

The city itself has an amazing Faust Street Bridge over the Guadalupe, so photogenic! I snapped this particular photo on a late evening walk in August while we were staying at some riverfront condos in New Braunfels' east side. We had to wait for the air to cool off!

King Iron and Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio constructed the bridge in 1887. It was originally a wagon and pedestrian trestle, but now is a pedestrian and cycling bridge. Just across the bridge is the old Mission Valley Cotton Mill, and later the New Braunfels Textile Mill, that employed 100 people from 1923 to 2005. It's slated for redevelopment into an upscale mixed use apartment and shopping area.

Aside from the Missions, Sts Peter and Paul Catholic church was built in 1871, and is one of the oldest churches in Texas. It became the permanent home for the Catholics of New Braunfels who'd worshiped without a church since their arrival in 1844. It's German roots are evident in the stained glass windows where German and English prayers are side by side. This one is among my favorites, and it's a children's prayer.

 

Then there's Landa Park. Right in the heart of the city, this "mini-Central Park" hosts the Panther Canyon hiking trial, ducks, fish, and deer. All the animals are very tame, and will approach for snacks if you're still and quiet.

The Park is very quaint, and gets a tremendous number of visitors daily. Cyclists, Mom's groups, joggers, fishermen, walkers, and naturalists. It hosts and Arboretum and a Dance "Slab" for gatherings in the summer, and it's very popular for family photos and wedding photo shoots. Landa Park has a natural swimming pool with a rope swing and water slides, a miniature train that circles the park, and of course an ice cream stand for hot summer days!

Landa Drive Bridge at the Panther Canyon Trailhead
Backyard Deer

 

Speaking of deer--there's a herd of probably several hundred that roam the neighborhoods here. Our first "housewarming party" arrived with fawns in tow to browse in the backyard. They've been a daily fixture ever since, and a couple of the bravest young deer have been known to eat out of our hands.

 


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey's Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be's: A Straighforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey's Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

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What are Your Aspirations?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Achieving Goals

Aspire to become a better you!Every January we focus a lot on “resolutions” and “goals”–and all that’s good. I think we should step back and think a little bigger; namely: our aspirations. What’s the difference? Why do we need them? Aren’t goals enough?

No. Let me tell you why.

Aspirations versus Goals

Put succinctly, an aspiration is a longing, hope, or ambition, while a goal is a tangible achievement. So while I have a goal to drop 20 pounds and work out 4 times per week, I aspire to a high level of fitness so I can do the things I like to do like mountain biking or surfing.

If you’re struggling to come up with goals or find it hard to keep resolutions, it might be because you haven’t figured out what you aspire to be. Goals flow from aspirations. If I aspire to live my life a certain way or be a certain kind of person, then making (and achieving) my goals becomes natural. As I’ve written before, knowing where you’re going increases your chance of getting there. Goals give us “targets” to aim at as we go through life. What aspirations do for us is help us stretch and reach outside ourselves. Aspirations help us grow.

Why We Need to Aspire

It’s fairly common for people to make the same types of resolutions each year. We all know the most common: lose weight, quit smoking, go to the gym more, getting up earlier, reading more books, etc. If those are your goals this year, then by all means go for it! But if you are making the same goals for a second or third year in a row, then it might be time to think about why you made the goals in the first place. Getting healthy, starting your day right, and improving your mind are all great goals–but if they’re not aligned with your aspirations then it will be drudgery to maintain your momentum. However, if you aspire to be a healthy person, an early riser, or more well read because you want to be a better person, then working on achieving your goals becomes much easier, and maybe even fun!

Who Do You Want to Be?

Starting with a vision of who you want to be will enable you to become a high performer as you develop aspirations to help you stretch. Visioning your future, giving voice to your aspirations, will give you the power to reach your goals. So, the question for you is: Who do you want to be?

Check out the goal setting resources page for worksheets to help you build your aspirations and goals.

 


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straighforward Guide to Life.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

 

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