Pennies on Sully

Dad’s “Sage” Advice for Freshman Success at College – New & Improved

Posted 1 CommentPosted in The Five Be's

I’m taking the remainder of the summer off from blogging. In the mean time, please enjoy this “throwback” post from the archives.

Pennies on Sully
Hey Freshman: Granger Smith says “Put a Penny On Sully”

There’s a whole new crop of new freshmen out there, so I thought I’d share the advice I gave to my son when he departed for college four years ago. I’ve adapted it a bit for a wider audience, but it’s basically the same. I’d be very interested in readers’ advice as well!

1. Stay Healthy: Mentally, Physically, Spiritually

  • You’ll get a mental workout at college, and remember that’s what you’re there to do. However, don’t forget to look for ways to learn new things outside the classroom–and make an effort to keep yourself mentally healthy by taking advantage of lecture series, plays, sporting events, etc.
  • Good physical health is crucial to good mental health. Work hard, but make time to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat properly. There won’t be enough gas in the tank for those occasional all-nighters if you don’t take care of the engine.
  • Stick with whatever spiritual practices you’ve grown up with, whether that’s regular worship at your local church/synagogue/mosque or just spending quiet time watching the sun come up. Many college students believe they’re on their own and they don’t have to tend to their spirit, but spiritual health is just as important as your mental and physical health. You’ll do a lot of growing in the next four years, and there will be considerable stress from school, relationships, and life in general so don’t add unnecessary stress to your life by removing the spiritual center you depend on (whether you know it or not!). Do work at an adult understanding of your faith and spirituality, but don’t abandon it. Bottom line here: if you’re using your religious practice as a means of rebellion against your parents or someone else–pick a different rebellion. You’ll only be harming yourself.

2. Make New Friends, Eat Your Lunch, and Drink Your Water.

  • This is the advice my son gave me every day as I left for work when we lived in San Antonio, and since it makes the same good sense for you that it for me did in 1994 I’m loaning it to you.
  • Don’t be a cave dweller.  It’s easy to remain locked away in your dorm room for four years making excellent grades and few friends…resist the urge. “To everything there is a season…” 
  • Make friends who aren’t like you. You don’t have to agree on everything or be the same in order to develop a friendship. Obviously, you should be true to your values and beliefs–never compromise those–but you can and should be friends with people who aren’t like you.
  • Try at least three new things your freshman year: join a club, go to a rally, see a play, go to a football game, take a road trip, enter a contest…don’t let the experience of college life be so big that it overwhelms you.  Challenge the experience to make you a better person.

3. Be Careful What You Choose, You May Get It

  • This warning isn’t a caution against taking chances; I encourage you to take (reasonable) risks.  What it does mean is starting with the end in mind, even visualizing it as a fait d’accompli, is an excellent way to discern if you really want something, or you’re merely dreaming; then make a plan to get there.

4. “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” (h/t RAF)

  • Success usually goes to the one who is prepared and has asked the question, “what can go wrong here?” Plan for and expect success, but don’t be crushed by failure.  The only real failure is quitting; never quit.

5. Guard Your Chastity

  • I know this sounds very old fashioned, but remember you’re there to get an education, not find a mate or a date. You may feel like you’re the last, or only, virgin on campus. Don’t believe the lie!  Do yourself and your future spouse a favor by remaining chaste.  If you do, you’ll then be free to give your spouse what you’ve saved only for her or him. Morals aside, respect the power of sex and leave it for later…there will be plenty of time.
  • If for some reason you are unsuccessful, or if you haven’t remained chaste before, see #1 above.

Learn from other people’s mistakes, you don’t have time to make them all yourself. – G. K. Chesterton

6. Sit In The Front Three Rows, Ask Questions, And See The Prof At Least Once In His Office

7. Have A Regular Schedule

  • The monastic religious orders and the military share a penchant for routine because it’s effective at training your mind to remember things, and to help develop habits of “life-balance” for your mind, spirit, and body.
  • You don’t have to be rigid about it, things come up, but having “reveille” and “taps”, “morning and evening prayer”, “workout time”, meals, and “study time” at regular intervals helps you stay balanced, fresh, and focused.  Also, practically speaking it’s also much easier to deviate from a plan than to attempt to form a new one from scratch at short notice.

8. Ask For Help When You Need It

  • Everybody needs help from time to time. Don’t be bashful about asking for help from Mom & Dad, from your priest, from friends, etc. Filter advice according to the source.
  • What you got you here won’t necessarily make you successful here. College isn’t the 13th grade…there are many more demands on you, and the University and others expect you to fully transition to independent adulthood while you’re here. At 18, you’re no longer a “kid”: you can vote, bear arms for your country, and legally make decisions on your own. You don’t have to do it all at once, so pace yourself.

9. Communicate

  • Keep your family in the loop with your victories and your struggles. As your parents and your family, we are excited to see you thriving on your own but we never stop being your mom and dad. We don’t want to run your life, but we want to continue to be a part of it. Call, Skype, email, text, tweet–whatever–but know you remain in our heart forever.

Why You Need a Coach

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

I’m taking the remainder of the summer off from blogging. In the mean time, please enjoy this “throwback” post from the archives.

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!

 

Never miss a post! Subscribe below to get the posts delivered to your inbox.


Who Do You Want to Be?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

As we raise young people into adulthood, we put a great deal of effort into setting boundaries. In fact, most of what young people hear as they grow is a list of “don’ts.”  When we’re very young, we hear “Don’t throw food on the floor,” “Don’t speak disrespectfully to your elders,” and “Don’t take toys away from your friends.” As we grow, the “don’ts” begin to pile up: don’t play in the street, don’t forget your manners, and don’t use bad language. Even in adulthood, we are inundated with “don’ts” regarding our behavior: don’t say those words, don’t wear those clothes, don’t eat this, and don’t touch that.

All these “don’ts” form the boundaries of acceptable behavior. When reasonably imposed, boundaries are a necessary part of establishing what’s appropriate and acceptable. Manners, after all, are intended to make everyone comfortable, so that each person’s dignity and feelings are safeguarded. All human groupings develop norms for behavior that each group member is expected to adhere to. They vary in complexity and formality, but norms, boundaries, or “don’ts” are common. Of course, we can overdo boundary setting. When there are too many boundaries, then it becomes tyranny. In general, however, boundaries and standards of behavior (“manners”) are necessary to the function of any human society.

What’s generally left unsaid when establishing our group norms is a target to focus on. It’s not sufficient to merely describe the outside boundaries of the target; you also must show people what the bulls-eye looks like. That’s what the Five Be’s book is all about.

Humans Need a Vision of Who They Want to Be

People can function in a world of “do’s” and “don’ts,” but knowing what to do and what not to do only describes external behavior. What people, particularly young people, really need is a vision of who they should want to be. With that vision, people are then empowered to reach for something rather than merely avoiding something.

The Pitch Black Room Analogy

To illustrate that point, imagine the following situation:

You’re in a pitch-black room with the task of finding a door somewhere in the room. What would you do? Most people would find the walls first, feeling their way slowly around the walls until they found the door, then opening the door to exit. But what if the exit was really a trap door set in the floor? Or a staircase in the center of the room? What if the walls gave way with the slightest pressure leaving you groping in the dark? Simply being told there is a door in the room isn’t enough information to find the door. There’s even less of a chance if the walls are unstable.

Giving a person a vision of who we want them to be is like turning on an exit light in that imaginary room. The light will dimly illuminate the way, and give them a direction to walk toward. It could even be bright enough to illuminate the entire room.

What this thought experiment illustrates, is the need for both boundaries and a target: standards of behavior and a positive vision of who we should want to be.


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 eight 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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Rage is the Easiest Button

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

Social media is poisoning your soul. Universal Human Goods are the antidote.

I recently deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone. That likely seems an odd thing to do for someone like me who writes and speaks publicly, but after some reflection I realized those two apps were stealing happiness out of my life. I didn’t completely leave the platforms, mind you, just removed the apps from my phone to prevent the “bored scroll through the feed.” Removing the apps also tames the impulse to overshare that’s inherent in social media. Does anyone really care what I had for lunch today? The links that appeared in my feed on – you name the topic – were most often sensational headlines designed for maximum emotional response. Frankly, though, most of those were eye rollers to me because I rarely take headlines at face value anymore. It is the comments that really get to me.

Social Poison

Honestly, and this is not news to anyone, the things people “say” to each other on social media we’d likely never say in person. I’m not claiming the high ground here – I’m painfully aware of times I have written things I wish I’d written differently. The flaming insults people who are ostensibly “friends” hurl at each other is truly disturbing, and to be honest, mostly recycled talking points from their political point of view. Very few discussions in the comment section cite actual facts; rather, people just fling sound bytes pulled from the “source du jour” without even trying to understand the motives or position of the other. What’s even more disturbing is the trend of truncating or eliminating facts that don’t comport with our positions, not to mention outright lies and setups.

Twitter is even worse, and a word has been coined to describe it: “TwitterMob.” Metaphorical pitchforks raised, the TwitterMob lurches from outrage to outrage in a 240-character attempt to shame, ridicule, and emotionally harm “the other.” Of course there is all sorts of things happening on Twitter and other social media sites, but on balance, I’ve concluded it’s not a productive use of my time and energy.

It’s not to say there’s not good in any social media – clearly it can be inspiring and informative – but the current state of affairs is not good. As an early adopter of social media, I’m saddened that it’s become a virtual town square where friendships end and mud gets spattered.

The Easy Button

When trying to move people to action, we try to elicit an emotion. Paraphrasing Chris Stirewalt, “rage is the easiest button.” It takes a lot less work to generate rage than compassion or happiness or gentleness, so that’s where many content outlets have descended. Everyone says they want to hear “just the facts,” but that’s not the behavior the content-consuming public reinforces with our clicks. In politics, the easiest way to get people motivated is to assert the “other guys” are evil or depraved. Pop culture is not better. Take a look at those magazines at the supermarket check out: feuds between celebs, fights between celeb spouses, or whatever the outrage du jour happens to be apparently sells magazines. Who buys those things anyway?

Universal Human Goods

In The Five Be’s I write very briefly about St Thomas Aquinas’ concept of Universal Human Goods. While there’s no definitive list in Aquinas’ Summa, any list of Human Goods has to include Beauty, Truth, Kindness, and Love. We are finite humans, so when we fill ourselves up on social media outrage and tabloid gossip, we have little room for anything else. It’s no wonder we’re not happy even though we live in the freest, safest, most prosperous time since the beginning of human history.

Imagine how better we’d sleep if we cared a lot less about celeb gossip or our friends voted, and more about being generous and seeking beauty? Wouldn’t our lives be better if we quit comparing ourselves to the latest Instagram model and more seeking Truth and Love? Shouldn’t a relationship with the Divine be life-changing and free us from trashy TV and internet browsing?

I submit we can do better. We shouldn’t do better so we can boast on Facebook about how successful we are – we should do better because it makes us and the world around us happier.


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.

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

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Who Do You Want to Be?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

This is the time of year many of us spend energy thinking about goals and resolutions. These things are important – if you don’t have a destination in mind you’ll end up nowhere (or somewhere you’d rather not be). It takes discipline and energy, but it’s worth it to sketch out your goals, make resolutions, etc.

I make goals and resolutions, but for me the most important thing is knowing who I want to be. Defining – or redefining as the case may be – is even more vital than making goals and resolutions. If we do not know ourselves, and have in mind who we want to be, all the goals in the world don’t matter.

Authentic, Realistic

When I start thinking about myself and who I want to be, two words come to mind immediately: authentic and realistic. I want to be the same person on Monday morning that I was on Sunday morning – authentic. Too often we compare ourselves to our friends and to celebrities, and then we translate that comparison into a facade we show the world. That may work in the short term, but it can’t last. Sooner or later an inauthentic person will forget which face they’ve shown to whom. It’s much simpler, and far less stressful, to be the same person all the time.

I also want to be realistic about where I am today and how fast I can get to where I want to be. It does no good for me to dream about conquering Everest if I’ve never even climbed a Fourteener. Addictions and bad habits aren’t conquered overnight, they’re usually acquired over long periods of time, and we can’t expect to turn ourselves around quickly. It’s like football: you don’t need to score a touchdown on every play; just get a first down.

Values are Timeless

There’s a reason why things like Cardinal Virtues, Theological Virtues, Beatitudes, and Universal Human Goods are still relevant: because they’re true. People who try to live their lives in accordance with codes of honor, professional ethics, the Virtues & Beatitudes, and value authentic human goods like Truth, Courage, and Beauty are usually the most healthy among us. These values are timeless because they point to things that are Real, and common to our human experience.

No matter how many times people try to deny “what’s good,” choosing to act on that denial eventually catches up with us. Bad habits become addictions. Poor diet begets poor health. Vice begets broken-ness. Dismissing timeless virtues and goods may feel good at first, but at some point the fun gets old and we can’t hide the bruises and dents to our soul from ourselves.

Just Be the Best Possible Version of Yourself

There isn’t one single solution to being a better you, but the one thing that must be on “Square One” is making an effort to be the best possible version of ourselves. That means being authentic, and embracing the time-honored principles that have worked across cultures and time. No one need compare themselves to some celeb or royal or friend-on-the-“BookFace”-who-appears-perfect. Life is not a competition. Love your family, feed your spirit with good things, and try to be kind. Remember, you don’t have to make a 99 yard TD on every play – just move the chains.


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.

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

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

New Video: The Five Be’s

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Speaking, The Five Be's

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 eight 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

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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.

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


Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Virtue is not a Scary Word

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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 eight 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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

The Beginning of the Be’s

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's, Uncategorized

 

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. 


Get your copy of The Five Be's on Amazon or the Lulu store!

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

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Can We Talk About Virtue for a Moment?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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.

____________________________________________________________________________

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

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.


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!


Get your copy of The Five Be's on Amazon or the Lulu store!

____________________________________________________________________________

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

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

I Want to be Like Andy Taylor

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Resiliency is a Team Sport

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

The Human Connection is the Foundation of Respect

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

(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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Respect for Persons

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Use Words If Necessary

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Life Lessons from Surfing

Posted 1 CommentPosted in The Five Be's

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.

In 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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Living Life in Balance

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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!

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Christmas Geekiness and Planning for 2018

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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!

 

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.

Be Prepared to Be Courageous

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

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!

 

Never miss a post! Subscribe to get the posts delivered to your inbox.