New Video: The Five Be’s

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Honored to have presented to the Ft Worth Downtown Rotary last month, and so appreciative for the Fort Worth Municipal Channel for the webcast!

This is the abbreviated version of my Five Be’s talk – hope you enjoy!


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 TeamsMickey’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!

The Cool Kids Usually Aren’t, But You Are

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When I was in high school I desperately wanted to be one of the cool kids. I was decidedly not “cool.”

The Cool Kids Usually Aren’t

My parents worked hard to provide for us, and we lived a good life with everything we needed including a Catholic education K-12. However, my classmates wore (then) $60 Nikes and I wore $20 Traxx from KMart. The cool kids wore Izod polos, mine were Montgomery Ward button downs. There was nothing wrong with my clothes, our car, our home, or any other outward measurement of social worth, but I was not “in” with the cool kids. I was too immature at 17 to understand that being “cool” wasn’t a be all and end all. It wasn’t even important.

Wish I’d learned that sooner because I wasted a lot of time on things that prevented me from friendships and personal growth. I know that now.

Cool Kids Are Usually Trying Too Hard

You see, the “cool kids” were often doing things that weren’t good for them or the people around them. Things we think are “cool” when we’re 16 or 17, are decidedly not with the benefit of a little hindsight and maturity. In fact, looking back, I’m glad I wasn’t one of the cool kids. My lack of social cooth and status likely protected me from some bad decisions.  Not that I didn’t make bad decisions with the uncool kids – but to be honest, those were mostly because I was trying to be something I’m not.

Be Yourself, You’re the Only You You’ve Got

Over and over again, it’s become apparent to me that absent a solid foundation in personal dignity and core values, people will often make the worst possible choices. One of the things continually surprised about as an adult is the propensity of large numbers of people to do things, wear things, and go places because someone in the entertainment industry or public life did it, wore it, or went there. When I see the magazines at the grocery store checkout, I’m amazed that these publications are in business. Honestly, I just don’t care that Princess So-And-So wore that thing, or Mr. Actor did such and such, or Mrs Socialite said whatever. Everyone is welcome to their own politics and opinions, and people in public life are no exceptions, but just because someone in a magazine or on TV is doing it is not sufficient reason for us to follow. People whose life is different than yours can be inspirational if they are virtuous or doing good works, but their life is just their life. Like eating watermelon, you have to eat the sweet stuff and metaphotically spit out the seeds.

Core Values

This is where guiding principles come into play. If we have a set of guiding principles for our life, we won’t be swayed because a pretty face decides to wear something or buy something. They have their lives, but their lives are not ours and vice versa. We can certainly admire someone’s work without feeling the need to agree with their politics or personal taste in clothes or cologne. Ultimately, when we have our core values and align our decisions with them, the “world” can do whatever “they” want without really affecting the quality of our lives. I can enjoy an actor’s work without feeling the need to agree with their politics, and just as importantly, not feel the need to judge them if we disagree. As I’ve written often, Mickey’s Rule #7 holds here, The other team is not the enemy.

Be authentically free, ya’ll.


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.

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Virtue is not a Scary Word

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When someone uses the word virtue, we immediately form a mental picture of a saint or an unattainable standard, but that need not be so. Virtue is not necessarily the sole domain of religion or any moral philosophy, nor should its association with religion create a barrier to adopting virtue as a “Be.”

The Critiques of the Idea of Virtue

It’s helpful to examine the common critiques up front. Critics of the idea of virtue as a realistic, achievable standard of behavior dismiss the idea that humans have the innate ability to live virtuous lives. It would be naive to ignore the terrible offenses people commit against others and society, but the opposite is also true. There are just as many stories of valor, love, self-sacrifice, and generosity in the world as well. People are capable of great evil, but we are also capable of great virtue.

We know, from observing the world, that both are true, that evil and good coexist within humanity, so it makes sense that an admirable goal is to cultivate the good and weed out the bad in ourselves. When we nurture the goodness in ourselves and others, we call that goodness “virtue.”

“Ethics” and “Core Values” are Virtues Codified

Every culture, community, and religion has its own idea of what virtue means. For example, in the U.S. Air Force, we define virtue as adhering to the Core Values: “Integrity first,” Service before self,” and “Excellence in all we do.”  As an institution, the Air Force considers an Airman virtuous if he lives by the Core Values,

We can trace our modern concept of virtue back to the classical Greek civilization of in the 4th Century BC and the famous philosopher, Aristotle. He defined the classical ideal and what has become known as the “Cardinal Virtues.”  The word cardinal refers to the “principle” or “main” virtues, much like north, south, east, and west are the cardinal directions on a compass.

Aristotle’s idea was that the highest calling was living a virtuous life, which perfected a person in the eyes of the gods as well as in the eyes of his fellow man. These ideas became so central to Western culture, that years later, when Christianity became dominant in political and philosophical thought in the Roman Empire, other philosophers like Augustine and Aquinas “baptized” the ideal of Classical Virtue and then added their own Christian-specific virtues called the “Theological Virtues.”

Universal Human Goods

The Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato both agreed that virtue begins with the understanding of what the medieval philosopher Aquinas later called “first principles.”  First principles are the “universal human goods” that all humans aspire to and recognize as admirable. Aristotle’s list included Life, Beauty, Love, Truth, Creativity, Religion, And Sociability. The virtuous person protects and seeks to increase these universal human goods, while the imprudent person squanders them. While we probably rarely use the words virtuous and vice in everyday speech, we have all seen people whose choices we questioned. Social media and the paparazzi thrive on highlighting behavior that makes us wonder, “What were they thinking?” 

When someone gets in trouble or makes choices that harm their reputation, or others, those choices are usually a direct result of someone not exercising a virtue. In fact, we don’t need a specific belief system or code of ethics to understand what’s right or wrong–although they certainly help as guides–those Universal Human Goods are written into our hearts.


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 TeamsMickey’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 Beginning of the Be’s

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I get asked occasionally where I got the idea for my most popular talk and book, The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life, and so I thought I’d make room here to talk about it.

It All Started with a Talk

The genesis of the book is a speech I wrote for young Airmen, fresh from Basic Military Training and arriving at their first base. I wanted to inspire them to live healthy and even virtuous lives. It’s not the vision they get from modern culture. Also, because I’d be speaking to people from varied backgrounds and beliefs, I needed to find non-sectarian ways to talk about virtue and healthy living without preaching.

What’s been interesting is the talk, and now the book, that I originally wrote for 19-year-olds resonates with people of all ages. I wanted to give them more than boundaries, I wanted them to have a vision of what a healthy person looks like; a clear idea of the kind of person I expected them to BE. The first time I was asked to give the Five Be’s talk to a conference of mostly older professionals, I reminded them that talk was really written for younger people. They responded, “we want the Five Be’s.” It was well received, and ever since then, it’s become my most requested talk.

Boundaries Are Not Enough

What I discovered a few years ago was that we spend a lot of time telling people what not to do, giving them boundaries. People need more than that.

We say “don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t act this way, don’t say those or eat that, or shop at the shop.” Boundaries are fine, we all need boundaries, but we can’t live with boundaries alone. For example, there are rules for driving and like stop lights and speed limits, etc., and all those things are fine. But if you don’t give a humans a vision of who we want them to be, a positive vision well then they are likely just to bounce back and forth, you know in the lane from boundary to boundary.

It’s not just important for young people, but for everybody starting out in life or a new chapter in their life. Think to yourself: what kind of person do I want to be ? When I tried to answer that question for myself, that’s when I came up with these Five Be’s. It’s sort of a macro formula for how to live a healthy and successful life.

You Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

The first “BE” is “Be Proud of Who You Are.” You know everybody has something to be proud of no matter how humble you are and everybody has the same dignity and value no matter who you are. Your human dignity doesn’t depend on your age, the color of your skin, your gender, or your religion. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, doesn’t matter what rank you have on your on your sleeve, it doesn’t matter how good-looking you are – none of that matters to how you should be treated.

I think we have to remind ourselves sometimes because especially you know we can be our own worst enemy. Authentic pride isn’t cheerleading. It’s not being “Stuart Smalley” from Saturday Night Live: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me.” It’s enough that we understand that each of us is a unique creation with inherent dignity.

Authentic Pride: The First BE

There are two kinds of pride; “authentic pride” and “counterfeit pride.” Authentic pride means thinking of your own self-worth and value, like pride in your family or accomplishments. It’s perfectly OK to be proud of working hard and achieving something, or of the contributions of your team, family, ethnic group, country, etc. You get the idea. Authentic pride is about tangible contributions, accomplishments, or victories. It builds people up.

Counterfeit pride is something much different. Counterfeit pride tears others down. It’s judgmental, exclusive, snobby, angry, and nasty. Counterfeit pride isn’t real because it’s not about victories, it’s about power.

Be Like the A’Ama Crab

The illustration for pride I always use, even for Mainland audiences, is a saying about Hawaiian crabs in a bucket. I read it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser some several ago and I went thought to myself, “that’s perfect.” The saying goes something like this, “Be like the a’ama crab, not the alamihi crab.” If you put a load of alamihi crabs in a bucket, and one of them tries to crawl out, the other crabs will pull it back in. If you put a’ama crabs into the bucket, they will make a ladder and pull each other out. And so you know that’s the difference of counterfeit pride and authentic pride. Authentic pride is always trying to rip somebody down, counterfeit pride is always trying to rip somebody down, authentic pride is always trying to trip somebody up.

Be the good kind of crab. 


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Can We Talk About Virtue for a Moment?

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There’s loads of talk in the media and online about “polarization,” and I think it’s the right time to bring up virtue.

Many of us have been trained to think of “virtue” as the opposite of “vice.” That’s an imperfect comparison because, in reality, virtue lies between the extremes of vice on either end of the spectrum. Aristotle and later, St Thomas Aquinas, called this idea “The Golden Mean.” I think the idea illustrates the need for mature thinking and restraint – don’t let the pendulum pull you to vice.

Virtue Isn’t Inaccessible

Some often think of “virtue” as some sort of antiquated and inaccessible ideal – not applicable to the “real world” or only applicable to someone else. But virtue is not merely for saints and firefighters. All of us benefit from a society that embraces virtue with people who try their best to be virtuous. The Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude seem like they’re difficult or even from another time – but these are things we do every day.

When we make smart decisions about money or choose to hold our tongues instead of saying something mean, or even something as mundane as choosing the apple slices instead of fried potatoes at Chik-Fil-A, we’re using Prudence. Athletes and students exercise Temperance all the time when they choose to study or work out instead of sit on the couch and watch TV. Justice happens when we repay a debt or give someone credit for a job well done. Fortitude is when we show moral or physical courage in the face of adversity. Good people and even not-so-good people do these things all the time.

Back to the Golden Mean

In an age of extremism as an attempt to get attention for ourselves and our causes, we need to re-learn the value of the Golden Mean. Virtue lies between twin vices, not at the opposite end of them.

For example, “Courage” lies between the extremes of “Reckless Abandon” and “Cowardice.” It’s equally wrong to have complete disregard for your own safety and the safety of others, as it is to cower in safety while others are in need of your assistance. It’s not virtuous to take unneccessary chances, or refuse to risk yourself to save others, but it is virtuous to act when others need you.

The Middle Isn’t Moderate

We love to contrast the “Moderates” with the “Extremists,”  but I say a pox on both their houses. “Moderates,” at least the ones who seem to bend to the winds of society, stand for nothing. Their “True North” is whatever is popular at the moment. “Extremists” are grown up children clamoring for attention by banging on doors and attempting to shout people down. Neither of these examples strikes me as a particularly virtuous.

A virtuous person attempts to find common ground with others, but never compromises their core values. They don’t fall for the twin temptations at each end of the spectrum. It’s perfectly acceptable to advocate passionately for things we believe in. Where we cross the line is when we descend into vice in the service of our positions. That’s a line we cross at our own peril. Compromise and working together is virtuous, but we must never sacrifice principle on the altar of compromise.

Paraphrasing Aquinas, when we do Good and reject Evil we elevate ourselves and those around us. Truth and Good are objective realities – such things are not subject to opinion polls or how many “Likes” we get on our tweet.

Until we recover the idea of Virtue with a Capital V, we can never hope to live in a just civilization. For Aristotle, “Virtue” was the way mature, well-formed humans lived in harmony with others. Aquinas added a Christian view to that idea, living in harmony with others and God, but the idea is the same: grown-ups need to act like, well, grown-ups.

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Keeping Up with Engel Jones

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Podcast, The Five Be's, Video

Back in November, I had the pleasure to appear on 12 Minute Convos with Engel Jones podcast. It was great fun, and today Engel came by to reconnect on Facebook Live with me. We had a conversation that was way too short, but incredibly fun.

What I like most about Engel is his genuineness – he truly enjoys meeting all kinds of people and engages fully when he does. It’s the kind of authenticity I write about in The Five Be’s, and the kind of person I’m always trying to be.

If you enjoyed this conversation, check our Engel’s podcast and go support his GoFundMe to help him finish his “conversation tour” of the United States and conversations with interesting people!


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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.

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

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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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Christmas Geekiness and Planning for 2018

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The Christmas Season begins at the Vigil (sundown) on Christmas Eve (Dec 24) and continues through the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6).

We’ll have a short post this week as I’m trying to keep my screen time to a minimum to enjoy the holidays and some time off with my family. I thought you’d appreciate some fun facts about Christmas, perhaps something you already know or perhaps something new! I’ll admit to being a bit of a history and liturgy geek, so bear with me!

Christmas Geekology

Christmas begins on Dec 24th, so why do we start celebrating early? Well, mostly because of World War II. With millions of Americans deployed overseas, the Federal Government urged Blue Star families to send their cards and presents early so the troops would receive them by Christmas.

The Twelve Days of Christmas are the actual Christian liturgical season of Christmas between Advent, and Ordinary Time. The entire calendar is derived from calculating Easter’s date, with “fixed” Solemnities like Christmas and the Annunciation fitting in as well. The Annunciation, the celebration of the Angel’s visit to the Blessed Virgin, occurs on March 25th each year–9 months before the celebration of Christ’s birth. If you notice, many churches and households decorate simply with evergreen and ribbons, saving the lights and colors for Christmas Day. My own Mom would challenge our poor mountain-grown fir tree to remain fireproof in the warm Texas winter until the Epiphany (Jan 6), although our house Fire Marshal (Dad) would occasionally drag the poor brown thing to the curb on Jan 1st.

Thinking about Next Year Yet?

I’ve been thinking a LOT about what I’ll be doing in 2018. If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you’ve already gotten a sneak peek! I’ll be adding to the blog, and I’m mulling over more ways to deliver content to you. If you have topics or ideas you’d like to see from me, I’d LOVE to hear them! Post them in the blog comments below or send me an email. In January, look for hints and methods for reaching your goals and becoming a High Achiever in the next year.

In the mean time, have a GREAT Christmas season and rest up for an AMAZING 2018!!!

 

 


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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Be Prepared to Be Courageous

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We must be mentally prepared to be courageous, you never know when the call will come.

When I give my Five Be’s talk and I get to the part about “Be Courageous”, I spend most of the time on the subject of “Moral Courage.” The reason I do that is because few of us will get the opportunity to demonstrate “Physical Courage”, but we all get the chance to demonstrate “Moral Courage” on a daily basis. In the course of our daily lives, we won’t run into burning buildings, dodge Taliban gunfire while directing air strikes, or engage in a running gun battle with a madman.

Moral Courage on a Daily Basis

Most of us, however, get the chance to be morally courageous every day. We can stand up for someone being bullied, we can be honest when in our dealings with others even when it’s difficult, we can uphold standards of conduct and speech. These things are courageous because they require the virtue of Fortitude. We have to be strong on the inside and sometimes swim against the stream to do what’s right. It’s not always popular to do the right thing, but it’s always right. An ethics instructor I once had used to tell us constantly, “First Principles, gentlemen. If you start there you avoid a multitude of sins.” First Principles are things like, “It’s wrong for the strong to take advantage of the weak” or “It’s wrong to cheat,” etc. What he meant was there is such a thing as “Right” and “Wrong”–we all know this instinctively–it’s in the application of those Principles where we sometimes get ourselves into trouble. To avoid a misapplication, we need an objective system of ethics outside ourselves, and internal compass with an external orientation.

The Need for Courage Can Come Unexpectedly

I’m sure when Air Force Master Sergeant Dan Wassom woke up the morning that a tornado would take his life, he hadn’t planned to be courageous. The tornado struck after dinner, around 7pm, and Wassom calmly acted to protect his family. One doesn’t “fight” a tornado, but how one responds to a crisis affects those around them. As a combat veteran, Wassom must’ve understood that he couldn’t panic because his family depended on him and would take their cue from him on how to act. According to Military.com,

Wassom’s wife told his parents that he remained calm, cool and collected even as the monster twister began to consume their 2,300-square-foot home.  As Wassom bent his 6-foot-2 frame over his youngest daughter, forming a semi-protective cocoon over her, a heavy structural beam struck the back of his neck and a one-by-four impaled his chest. Lorelai lost a toe on her left foot and suffered a serious injury to her right shoulder, but she, along with her mother and sister, Sydney, survived.

Wassom was a hero because he kept his head and acted even though anyone in his situation would’ve been terrified. Courage, it’s said, is not the absence of fear, but doing what’s necessary despite being afraid.

Prepare to Be Courageous

The best way to be the one who “rises to the occasion” is to be prepared. Be the guy who has the jumper cables, first aid kit, and chemlights in your trunk. Get rudimentary first aid training, think through what you’d do in a natural disaster, etc. You might not ever be called upon to be a hero, but then again…

 


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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The Thumper Rule – If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say

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I heard my father’s voice in my head: “Be nice,” so I choked out a strained “thank you” through a fake smile. What I really wanted to say was, “Are you KIDDING me?!!” 

The young Airman standing in front of me had very proudly secured an all black Toyota Forerunner from the motor pool that he thought was, “a cool color.” In a place where the summer temperatures reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit, I had a black car without tinted windows. And I had to say “thank you.” In fact, if I’d said anything else, I’m sure I’d have crushed him because he thought he was doing me a favor. Not everyone has a black car in Kuwait. In fact, in the year I was there I never saw another black car! It was unheard of in the desert country of Kuwait because the Kuwaitis knew better.

As I tore my stunned gaze away from the solar oven that was about to be my command vehicle, I searched for something to say.  Heck, I’d have left there and had a beer to drown my sorrows–except General Order No 1 prohibited the consumption of alcohol in the Central Command Area of Responsibility. So, I smiled, thanked the young man, and left before I said something I knew I’d regret.

What Thumper Said–Sometimes

In the classic Disney film, Bambi, there is a scene when Bambi’s cottontail companion Thumper is corrected by his mother after he makes a rude comment about Bambi. In reply to his mother’s, “Thumper, what did your father tell you?”, he replies sweetly, “If you don’t have somethin’ nice to say, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” It’s good advice that seems more difficult to abide by in the digital age.

It’s easy in the heat of the moment and particularly online to be more direct and verbally aggressive than we would’ve been otherwise. It’s particularly easy when the interface between you and another person is a computer screen that you take with you everywhere (like your phone or tablet). It’s gotten so bad for some that a few friends of mine have abandoned all social media completely. I think a great many people, fearful of others’ harsh words or perhaps their own, have simply ceded the public square to the trolls.

Light a Candle

The truth is very, very few of us enjoy being mean or nasty. There are a few people out there who seem to thrive on the pain and embarrassment of others, but most people really don’t like confrontation or meanness. But just like the old saying, “Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle,” we can actually do something about it.

It starts with living out what you believe, and doing so in a positive and constructive way. As my own father wisely told me, “Taking the coat off someone else’s back doesn’t make mine any warmer.” He means, tearing others down doesn’t build us up–it actually brings all of us down together. If we truly believe that other humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “in the image and likeness of God,” shouldn’t we treat our fellow humans as if that were true? If we actually believe in the ideal that “all men are brothers”, shouldn’t our words and actions reflect that belief?

I think it should, and that’s our way to light a candle. When the conversation gets bad, we can find a way to show love to one another and bring a little peace with our words, or even silence. If you are human and mess up, then apologize as best you can and try to be better next time. Even if we need to correct something or defend ourselves or others, we can do that peacefully and with love.

That’s lighting a candle, too. And it’s also what Thumper would’ve done.

 


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.

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

 

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What I Saw in Houston

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leadership by Experience, The Five Be's, Veterans

Team Rubicon “Greyshirts” of FOB FRIENDSWOOD prepare to move out for the day.

Last week I deployed with Team Rubicon on my first ever disaster response operation: Operation Hard Hustle.  I can tell you I got more out of the experience than I gave—serving others and doing important work in the company of other military veterans and first responders is soul-cleansing. This post is my reflection on that week.

Doing good work and serving others is my primary reason for volunteering, but there is a secondary benefit as well. The experience also provides a place for veterans to be among other veterans, and to reconnect with the “brotherhood.” Having spent my entire adult life in uniform, I relish that connection.  WW II soldier and Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin called it the “Benevolent And Protective Brotherhood Of Them What Has Been Shot At”, and that’s a discription I’ve thought about many times over the course of my career.

My Air Force specialty was civil engineering and installation management, which means when bad things happened I went to work. Being retired from the Air Force, I was now on the sidelines of a disaster happening just a few hours by car away from me. I felt the need to be there, and so enter Team Rubicon. I’ve written about Team Rubicon before, but in a nutshell it’s a veteran-led organization who respond to disasters. When we were in the military, we received a lot of training on handling chaos and trauma—some of us were medics, rescue personnel, infantry, engineers, etc. Team Rubicon allows us to put our military experience and training to work as well as continue to serve.

I can tell you I got more out of the experience than I gave—serving others and doing important work in the company of other military veterans and first responders is soul-cleansing.

Pack Your Stuff

My “Go Bag” is packed.

When Hurricane Harvey headed for the Texas coast gaining strength, I felt I just couldn’t sit idle while people were about to have their lives shattered when I had the skills to help. On Thursday with Harvey’s rain pounding and wind howling outside, I filled out the forms, did the training, and submitted my background check. And waited.

I didn’t have to wait long.

On Sunday afternoon I received the coveted “green dot” on my TR Profile meaning I was cleared, and an email with deployment orders to join the first wave of volunteers at Forward Operating Base (FOB) FRIENDSWOOD in Friendswood, Texas.  Most of my field gear and camping equipment is still in storage in Colorado, so I was off to Academy and Walmart to get a few things, then on Tuesday morning I drove the three hours down to our FOB for operations in the area. Our Area of Operations (AO) would include Friendswood, Dickinson, League City, Alvin, and Hitchcock. The Incident Command team of four seasoned TR volunteers was there a few days ahead of us, and we began operations as soon as we got signed in.

Professionals Talk Logistics

Warm welcome from Friendswood!

The first order of business for the handful of new arrivals was to set the logistics for the remainder of the deployment. We re-positioned vehicles, drew tools and equipment, and set up two dozen cots in the gym that would be our living quarters. I must say that the good people who hosted and supported us at Friendswood United Methodist were amazing. The fed us three meals a day, washed our clothes, and provided small comforts like toiletries, home baked goodies, and pillows. Can’t say enough about them and their servants’ hearts!

On Day 2 while a most of our team headed out to do Damage Assessments and work at a house (“Strike Team”), three of us headed to a warehouse down at the airport that would be our Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSOI) center for Greyshirts (TR volunteers) arriving in the next week. We spend the morning cleaning it and getting the RSOI center ready, then back to the FOB after repositioning more vehicles, picking up others, and drawing more equipment for our teams.

“It’s Too Dangerous for My Children”

More Greyshirts arrive on Saturday!

On Days 3-5, I was finally able to get into the field and begin working with the people affected by the flooding. We went house to house in a Dickinson and Friendswood meeting with residents trying to cope with the wreckage that had been their homes. Whether a house got 4 inches or 4 feet of water, the damage was largely the same. Imagine taking everything you own and piling it in a wet, moldy heap in the front yard. That’s what the flooded areas look like.

One woman took the moment with us away from her family to shed a few tears with my teammate, afraid to be anything other than positive and strong in front of her husband and her kids. Another calmly told us the story of getting out of his house as the water went from ankle-deep to waist deep to chest deep so quickly they got out with the clothes on their backs in the boat they had in the driveway. He told us sadly about that during the evacuation, one of the family dogs was swept under the boat and drowned.

Another family in Dickinson told of a harrowing story of getting out as the flood waters rose. A woman in her 60’s walked her disabled brother and elderly neighbor through waist deep water following the yellow line on the road—none of them could swim. When she arrived at her 92-year-old mother’s house, she evacuated all of them by boat with the clothes on their backs.

Another woman flagged us down and told us she needed help. She spoke English slightly better than I speak Spanish, and we communicated in a blend of the two languages. While her young daughter slept in the car seat, she told us with tears welling in her eyes that she discovered only after the flood that she’d been renting her house, rather than paying a mortgage. With two little ones with her, and her son in the Navy in California, she was unsure what to do next because she couldn’t go home (“demasiado peligroso para mis niños –it’s too dangerous for my children”).

There are thousands of stories like that.

I completed the last two days of my tour in the command post as Deputy Ops, and it was gratifying to see the work we gathered getting scheduled and teams dispatched. At the end of seven amazing days, I said good-bye to the team and returned home.

Everyone we met had an unshakable faith in God. Through the flood waters and devastation of their homes, their faith in God and in each other had remained unvanquished.

Houston Strong

Despite the occasional tears, two things struck me: the resilience of the people and the amazing example of who we are as Texans and Americans these people provided.

First, Houstonians specifically and Texans in general are incredibly resilient. Many of the houses we visited had already had a volunteer group come through and provide initial demolition assistance. It’s imperative to get the wet stuff out of the house quickly to avoid dangerous mold growth. Neighbors shared food by having cookouts and checked on each other.  One man we met assembled a trailer with a grill and coolers, worked a deal with the local Walmart manager to buy food, and then circulated around neighborhoods feeding people. Even those we met who opened their hearts and cried a little always took a big breath and let resolve to go forward settle on them before we left. Everyone we met had an unshakable faith in God. Through the flood waters and devastation of their homes, their faith in God and in each other had remained unvanquished.

Second, spending a week with volunteers and Houstonians reinforced to me that America is still who we thought she is. America remains the City on a Hill. Men and women from all over the country came to help Houstonians recover. Groups of volunteers from countless churches, neighborhoods, and civic organizations went house to house to help strangers. We saw perhaps a dozen other volunteer groups working in each neighborhood.

While as a Texan I believe there’s something special about Texas, I’ve traveled enough and lived enough other places to know that if Texans indeed did anything truly extraordinary it was only to remind our fellow Americans who we are as a country.

Our team visited with men and women of every color, creed, and background. Time and again I heard them tell me, “All that division is crap. We’re Americans, we’re Texans.” We honestly believe All Men Are Created Equal and in the “image and likeness of God”; it’s not a slogan here. I’m not naive, I know there are problems and people sometimes do bad, even evil, things to each other. But I also know the vast majority of people around us are good and decent, and will be there for you when things get bad. While as a Texan I believe there’s something special about Texas, I’ve traveled enough and lived enough other places to know that if Texans indeed did anything truly extraordinary it was only to remind our fellow Americans who we are as a country.

Move to the Sound of the Guns

Napoleon’s standing order for units out of communication with his headquarters was to “move to the sound of the guns.” It is an imperative to act and not wait for someone to tell you what to do. There was no gunfire on the Texas Gulf Coast, but there was a battle to be waged against Nature and it was good men and women who moved to the metaphorical “sound of the guns” when things went bad. Napoleon’s order is something military people and first responders do instinctively, and I believe there’s something in the Texan and American character that drives that instinct. We saw that play out on TV countless times when men and women “moved to the sound of the guns” to help their neighbors. Federal, State, local authorities, and volunteers didn’t wait for someone to give them orders; they acted and worked together to save lives and now to rebuild them.

My Team Rubicon teammates were there doing swift water rescues, and we’ll be there to help Houston rebuild. It’s TR men and women: veterans, first responders, medical professionals, and a few civilians in the mix who represent what’s right about America.

The City on a Hill may have a few potholes and broken windows, but she remains a shining example of who America truly is as a country. We really are who we say we are, and I believe that now more than ever.


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.

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

 

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High Performing Leaders Live a Balanced Life

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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. -Mickey Addison, The Five Be’s

 

 

We sat in the Officer’s Club at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho: three lieutenants with cold beers in hand trying to impress each other with the hours we were working. It was a perverse matter of pride for us–and lots of others at the time–to brag about the amount of time we were working. Bragging about children’s birthdays missed, anniversaries spent away, and late nights was a badge of honor. Forget family life, personal development, even physical fitness; our sole measure of merit was how many hours we put in at work.

We lieutenants were seriously out of balance; how times have changed! Remember, this was during the Cold War, before the Air Force and our country was pulled into war in ‘90 in Iraq and a decade before 9/11. By the end of my Air Force career, we developed many better ways to measure our effectiveness, both as individuals and as teams. We’re all ready and willing to work hard when it’s necessary, but as a former commander once said, “You can’t run at 110% all the time.” There are still sacrifices to be made, but I think we’re a much better military as a result of paying attention to “Be Balanced.”

Be Balanced

If 30 years in the Air Force leading Airmen taught me nothing else, it taught me the lesson of “Be Balanced.” Living a life in balance makes a leader more effective, and more resilient. By attending to our mental, physical, and spiritual balance, we store up strength like in a battery. Then, when the time comes to reach into those reserves, we have something left to draw from. Mental balance means proper management of stress, and it also means nourishing our minds with new and interesting things. Leaders are learners. Physical balance means taking care of our bodies–we only get one of those–so proper food, sleep, and exercise delivers a body that won’t quit when the going gets tough. Finally, spiritual balance means feeding our human spirit good things, storing up spiritual energy in our internal “batteries” so that when times are hard, we have a reserve. It means a recognition that we are more than mere flesh and blood, and need a connection to things larger than ourselves.

Balance Brings Resilience

Agility and resiliency are popular topics in today’s business leadership circles. The reason that’s so is because business is learning what the military has know for some time: people are the weapon system and the real reason for victory. Technology and organizations change, but people who fight are the reason we succeed or fail. A team of balanced people can perform at very high levels, and still have “gas in the tank” for more!

 


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.

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

 

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Why You Need a Coach

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

I need a coach. Anyone can trudge through a task or lesson on their own, but if I truly want to get better I’m in need of a coach. I’ve been an athlete all my life. I started soccer at age 6, baseball at age 8, and I lettered in both football and track in high school. Attending a senior military college and then entering the Air Force afterwards meant intramural sports, physical training and annual physical fitness tests from the age of 18 until my retirement from the service this past June. Of course, we lead active lives in our house as well: hiking, cycling, CrossFit, surfing. Well, you get the idea. I’m not a couch potato.

The reason for that self-absorbed preamble is to establish that at 52 years, I’m not a novice to physical fitness or the gym—and despite all that experience I STILL need a coach!

Successful People are Lifelong Learners

The man in the picture at left is one of my CrossFit coaches, Coach Andrew, of New Braunfels CrossFit. In my last job, my commute and work schedule combined to prevent me from going to a CrossFit “box” (gym), so I worked out on my own. Sure enough, working out with no coaching and no partner to provide some accountability meant I’ve developed many bad habits. That’s where Coach Andrew comes in. He’s there to correct, guide, and encourage—exactly what a coach should be. I can go out and work hard on my own, sweat, and stay in shape. If I want to improve, however, I need a coach.

As I discuss in my book, The Five Be’s, a key part of being healthy and successful is nourishing our minds—and that means being a lifelong learner. Learning requires a teacher, and putting thought into practice requires a coach. You can make a lot of progress watching YouTube videos and practicing on your own, but if you really want to improve then get a coach! One of the defining characteristics of successful people is being in “learning mode” their entire lives. President Bush (43) for example, was a voracious reader who consumed 95 books during his first year as president, and after he left office learned to paint!

What Makes a Great Coach

A great coach has three defining characteristics: (1) Technical Mastery, (2) Ability to Motivate, and (3) Patience. Technical Mastery is essential because a coach must have something to give; we expect our coaches to be experts. Technical Mastery is not enough, however, because the coach must be able to motivate the student and then patiently guide the improvement. There’s many people out there with one or two of these characteristics, great coaches possess all three!

When looking for a coach, whether it’s athletics, speaking, or executive leadership, look for someone whose an expert who can walk with you as you learn. Just as I need a coach to break my bad CrossFit habits, we all need people in our lives who can hold us accountable and make us better. A good coach imparts knowledge, a great coach inspires you to be better.

Be Balanced

To Be Balanced, you must nourish your minds and be a lifelong learner. Desire and hard work will only get you so far, to really improve you’ll need a coach.

Be sure to check out The Five Be’s, available in a few weeks in paperback and hardback!

 


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.

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

 

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What Is Courage? (Part I)

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

Mickey is in the midst of moving his household from Hawaii to Texas, so please enjoy this “classic” post from 2016. Original posts will resume in September. Also, don’t forget that The Five Be’s Second Edition goes live on Lulu and Amazon next month!!


Lt Harry Brubaker (William Holden) writing in a scene from the film The Bridges at Toko-ri (Paramount Pictures photo)

In the film, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, the Task Force Commander, Admiral Tarrant, wonders aloud about the courage of the men fighting under his command after a successful mission claims the life of a pilot and the helicopter crew sent to rescue him. Watching flight operations aboard the carrier, Tarrant remarks, “Where do we get such men?”

That question brings us face to face with trying to understand courage. Tarrant wondered at the courage to face bullets in a war far from home, but he is not the first to ask that question.

Here’s my definition: Physical courage is the ability to overcome fear and do what’s necessary in order to survive, save a life, accomplish a mission, or excel despite physical or psychological barriers.

Using this definition of physical courage obviously concerns overcoming external obstacles. To simplify, demonstrating physical courage is overcoming the “fight or flight” instinct., and choosing to fight. Physical courage results in facing danger or the threat of pain to accomplish a goal. Note the danger doesn’t have to be real – the mere threat of danger or pain can be enough to trigger a “fight or flight” response. What is more, “fight” doesn’t necessarily mean a physical altercation or use of weapons. In the context of physical courage, “fight” simply involves meeting a particular challenge head on, without avoidance.

Returning to Admiral Tarrant’s question, “Where do we get such men?” and rephrasing it to ask “Where does courage come from?” There are several answers to that question, it’s not as vague as you might think.

There is a physiological reason for courage. Researchers discovered by a very unique (and bizarre) experiment involving snakes and an MRI machine. The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, strapped test subjects in an MRI machine with a snake suspended mere inches above their heads. Using the MRI to track brain activity, researchers identified the specific area of the brain associated with courage, the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (SaCC). Using human’s natural snakes to stimulate a fear response, test subjects reported their level of fear as the snake was moved closer and closer until their fear became greater than their courage.

It’s an interesting experiment. As researchers are able to determine the role that hormones and pheromones play in the attraction between boys and girls yet cannot define “love”, neither can a purely physiological explanation satisfy our curiosity about the source of courage. As I have said many times before, humans are more complex than merely our biology. Surely biology can influence courage – a large person in a crowd of small ones is more apt to be courageous than the opposite. But when it comes to courage, biology is not the determining factor.

History is populated with stories of unexpected heroism from unlikely people. The 98-pound weakling who stands up to the bully on the school yard, and the grandmother who faces down the burglar are legendary, in part because it is documented and has repeated occurrences. Movie makers have repeatedly made films about the plucky young person who saves the day while facing down a larger and more ferocious enemy. Do these real, and fictional, people have an oversized “courage center” in their brains?

Perhaps, but I’d like to think it’s more than that.

Next week, more on what courage IS and ISN’T.


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’. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

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