Devotional Tuesday – A Worthwhile Building Project

Brooks02_01_14_1_a

Today’s devotional is courtesy of Coach Tony Dungy.  I hope you enjoy!

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith and don’t show it by your actions.” James 2:14

Derrick Brooks always made a difference on the football field.  Fortunately for the “Brooks Bunch” – a group of kids Derrick got involved with at the Boys Club in Tampa – he makes a difference off the field too.

Not only was Derrick a great player, he’s incredibly bright and generous.  He has always been concerned with giving back.  So when he arrived in Tampa in 1995, he began hanging out at the local Boys c4s_brooksjump080114_13607042_8col& Girls Clubs.  He was amazed by the number of kids who had never been outside of Tampa, and he committed himself to broadening their horizons and helping them see themselves as future leaders who could make a difference.  He developed a curriculum in which kids would spend a year learning about a place 0 The King center in Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; even South Africa and Swaziland – and then he would take them on a trip to that destination.  It was his way of building into the lives of others.

That’s an uncommon sense of commitment.  All of us have some kind of impact on those closest to us – hopefully, a very positive impact – but not everyone goes out of their way to invest in the lives of those outside the normal circle of relationships.  Derrick uses the gifts God has given him to look beyond himself and make a difference.  And any of us can do that.  We can give a hand to provide unusual opportunities for people who haven’t had many.  We can volunteer time and invest resources to make a lasting impact in the lives of others.  we can see the potential in others and help them achieve it.

That is mentoring.  That is what it means to leave a legacy.  Recently, the first wave of The Brooks Bunch graduated from college, and I have no doubt that Derrick’s involvement played a big part in their success.  Anytime we go the extra mile to invest in someone’s life, we make a difference – and we help them make one too.

Uncommon Key –> Find ways to build into others’ lives.  Mentoring leaves a lasting legacy.  It increases the impact your life, and it helps others increase the impact of theirs.

Fashion Friday is Back! Transition Into Fall

Today’s fashion post comes courtesy of Trunk Club home to the only personal stylist you will ever need.  If you aren’t doing Trunk Club you aren’t doing life right.  Please email or send me a tweet and I can hook you up with my personal stylist Casey.  Hope you enjoy!

During the fall, which officially starts in just one week, the cooler weather allows for maximum wardrobe flexibility. Sweaters, coats, blazers, scarves—and any combination thereof—all come into play.

If you’re Jason Smith, VP of Merchandising at Trunk Club, the new season also means Pinot Noir and plenty of firewood. As we head into the best time of the year for dressing, we asked Jason to share his favorites for fall, clothing-related and otherwise. You’ll find his notes below.

Statement Sweaters
Back in college, any time I knew I would be interacting with ladies, I wore my Fair Isle shawl-collar sweater. Because of its unique look, the sweater helped me stand out against the steady backdrop of Abercrombie that the other guys wore. Even if your college days (much like mine) are now long gone, introducing a few strong sweaters into your rotation is a good move that can result in some well-deserved attention.

First Impressions
I’m especially proud of the variety of outerwear that our merchandising team has put together for fall. Sometimes guys overlook the importance of outerwear and stick with their performance fleeces or ski parkas, but there is always a better option. Your coat, jacket, or vest might be the last thing you put on before you leave the house, but it’s one of the first things people notice.

Great Britain, Great Fabric
I have never been to Ireland or the Scottish Highlands, but that doesn’t stop me from dressing like I own country estates in both locations. The Brits discovered that tweed and other sturdy fabrics stood up against cold winds coming off the moors. Lucky for us, those same fabrics keep Americans equally warm when temperatures drop on our side of the Atlantic.

“Football” and Neck Scarves
Scarves do a great job of balancing style and function. In addition to keeping the chill off your neck, they add a sophisticated dimension to your outfit. I prefer the slip knot because it’s simple and practical. It’s also the preferred knot of some of Europe’s best-dressed soccer coaches, and it works just as well for me while I watch Griffin, my two-year-old son, play in his Lil’ Kickers soccer league.

Everything Old Is New Again
For me, fall means nesting time. My family, the fireplace, and Pinot Noir all factor into that. I also recently inherited my father’s old vinyl collection. Beyond listening to the same records that my father used to blast on weekend mornings (the man refused to let me sleep in), I’ve started to build my own collection. “Paul’s Boutique” by the Beastie Boys and “Purple Rain” by Prince are my two favorite acquisitions so far.

 

Devotional Tuesday – Adversity

 

stories-from-general-conference-55-500x309-adversity

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:2-4, 12 (NIV)

Adversity.

It is one of the things that we all hate to go through and yet it is part of life that will either forge you into a better man or reveal the weakness of your character.  I am constantly amazed at the half-assedness (I think I made that up) of so many men in our society.  Christian men are not immune from this either.  Too often men just give up when faced with adversity or at the very least take the easy way our.  It is one (of the many) the reasons so many young men sit rotting away in our prisons.

Adversity

a. adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity or distress.

b. as adverse or unfortunate event or circumstance

c. distress, affliction; hardship

d. an unfortunate event or incident

Lying, cheating, stealing, fornicating are all just a short list of the easy options in life.  Harder options include truth, honesty, integrity, self-control.  Yet it is the more difficult options that will build your character and help forge you into a man of respect, self-worth anmalcolm-x-adversity-quote1d success.  I am not saying people can’t be successful if they cheat, lie and steal.  We see examples of those kind of men every day.  But this site isn’t about living such a compromising lifestyle  Rather, I call out all men to be better than that.  To achieve higher, to be successful while maintaining our respect and integrity.  It is the same calling that Jesus had for his disciples.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! For I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

Looking back on your life, what kind of adversity have you faced?  How did you deal with that adversity?  Was it good or bad?  What did you learn from that experience that you can take with you for the next time?  Did you feel like God was with you during those times?  Why or why not?

Personally I always find solace (sometimes a little, other times a lot) in knowing that Jesus faced adversity during his time on earth.

“Not my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came this hour.  Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28 (NIV)

“After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” John 13:21 (NIV)

Truth is we face adversity every day.  It might be as minor as UPS refusing to deliver a package that you need for a work presentation.  It could be much greater such as dealing with the loss of a loved one, a divorce or a sick child.

Regardless of the adversity, God is there with you.  He is cheering for you to pull through, to make the right decision and to overcome whatever it is you are facing.  By taking the right steps you will become a better husband, father and friend.  Don’t let the emotion and stress overwhelm you to the point you take the easy way out.  Stay strong men and wait it out.

I leave you with a couple of bible verses to encourage you.

 “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,  quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.  Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—  the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:32-40 (NIV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust God; trust also in me.” John 14:1

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“A friend loves at all times, a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

adversity

 

 

Bad Ass of the Week – Charles C. Rogers

Charles Calvin Rogers was a math major.  A Lieutenant Colonel.  An artillery commander.  A decorated senior officer whose job involved staying back behind the front lines calculating firing angles with a slide rule and a portable astrolabe, launching artillery shells the size of small children at enemy coordinates screamed into his ear via radio by panicking junior-grade infantry officers, and blowing the crap out of things at such long distances he needed a decent hill and a pair of high-magnification binoculars just to get a decent look at the fireworks.

He wasn’t supposed to be bayonet-charging a horde of North Vietnamese Army regulars on the Cambodian border in the middle of Halloween night with two goddamned chunks of burning-hot mortar shrapnel embedded in his ribs and AK-47 bullets ripping up the jungle underbrush around from every direction.

But when the opportunity presented itself, he didn’t pass it up.  He rallied his troops, slapped a magazine into his rifle, and didn’t stop cracking skulls until the sun came up.

 Midnight had just ticked Halloween 1968 over to November 1 when the first NVA mortar bursts began raining high-explosive shrieking death down onto Fire Base Rita, a forward position deep in the jungles on the Vietnam-Cambodia border.  Red flares went up in the woods, backlighting a sea of movement that was punctuated by battle cries, death screams, and a non-stop stream of full-auto machine gun fire that lit up the night with enough tracer fire to make the once-peaceful rain forest immediately start looking like a laser gun firefight from the old-school 1980s G.I. Joe cartoons.

It was a full-on NVA human wave attack.  Hundreds of battle-hardened, tough-as-nails Vietnamese infantry poured out of the jungle, laying down covering fire with mortars, grenades, RPGs and machine guns, barreling down on a vastly-outnumbered U.S. position that suddenly found itself in a desperate struggle between life and a grisly death.

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Calvin Rogers, commanding officer of the 1st battalion, 1st Infantry Division, rushed outside his tent, took immediate stock of the situation while RPG contrails streamed overhead, and went right to work positioning his howitzer batteries to blanket the jungle with great vengeance and furious anger.

Rogers’ guns sprung to life, barfing anti-personnel shrapnel-filled fireballs straight into the face of the onrushing enemy horde, exploding asses and balls and other unspeakable things in a cloud of dust, but still the fearless Vietnamese warriors rushed onward, undaunted by the destruction in their ranks.  Balls-out NVA combat engineers, racing frantically under the cover of mortars and suppressing fire, ran right up to the American barricade, undauntedly planted explosive charges while U.S. infantry fired point-blank into their ranks, and then blasted huge gaping holes through the firebase’s outer walls.  Through the cloud of dust, dirt, and blown-apart sandbags rushed a seemingly-endless stream of screaming fighters armed with bayonets and AK47s.

Calvin Rogers, a 16-year veteran from West Virginia, hadn’t seen the enemy this close in a long time.  Steel-eyed and resolute in his need to kick asses and save his men, the 39 year-old Lieutenant Colonel grabbed his helmet and rifle and raced right up towards the front-line artillery positions – nothing was going to keep his guns from firing, and he was absolutely determined to turn back this assault before the enemy swept in and overran his artillery position.

 Rushing straight into the teeth of the attack, Colonel Rogers barked orders at his shell-shocked men, most of whom had never been quite so close to an enemy mortar attack before.  Grabbing men by their jackets and pulling them to their feet, Rogers seemed to utterly ignore the tracer bullets and epic action-movie grade explosions rocking the jungle around him as he personally turned the guns into position, rallied his men, and shouted out firing coordinates and directions.  When one enemy mortar shell airbusted right above his damn head, the concussive blast knocking him off his feet and into the dirt below, Rogers didn’t even seem concerned – he popped right back up on his feet, and the burning shrapnel in his body didn’t even seem to stop him from completing the sentence he’d started right before being blown the hell up.

Almost immediately after this, a call came up from another battery – the NVA were crawling up their asses, swarming over the sandbagged defenses, and the artillery positions were in danger of being overrun and flanked.

Rogers, a battalion commander who was already bleeding and wounded, organized a small crew of U.S. artillerymen, told them to grab their rifles, and personally led a counterattack straight into the face of a much-larger enemy force.  After an intense midnight firefight and the utter confusion hand-to-hand combat where Rogers personally killed a few of the enemy but also took a bullet from an AK-47, his determined attack threw them back and recaptured the gun.

 During the subsequent break in the fighting medics raced over to Rogers, who by now was covered in blood (both his and that of his enemies), but he refused medical treatment – he was in full-on blood rage berserker mode and a stupid little thing like a couple profusely bleeding bullet and shrapnel wounds weren’t going to keep him from single-handedly saving the 1st Artillery Battalion, 1st Infantry Division — the oldest artillery unit in American history (originally formed by Fat Henry Knox) – from complete annihilation.

He knew the fight wasn’t over.  And he was right.

After a brief break to regroup, the NVA tried a second assault, this time at a different part of the American line.  Rogers, rallying his exhausted, bloodied, wounded troops, once again directed a metal storm of artillery shells raining down on the attackers like a piñata from hell or one of those Ice Storm wizards from Warcraft II.  When they got too close for comfort, Rogers regrouped his ad hoc strike team, hurled them into the breaches, and again personally shot up the enemy bad enough that they were forced back to the jungle to regroup.

 By this point dawn was breaking over the jungle.  The Vietnamese had one final chance to launch their attack before the sun would deprive them of the cover of darkness.  This time, they pulled out all the stops, hurling the last reserves of their exhausted soldiers straight-on into the teeth of the American defenses in a last desperate attempt to crush Firebase Rita to rubble, capture the U.S. artillery pieces that had wrought so much horror on their lines, and turn them against their former owners.

Charles C. Rogers had other ideas.  Already twice wounded, and having led two separate counterattacks, he again rallied his men for action.  He checked their health, got them resupplied, and personally went up and down the line encouraging them to fight their asses off and hold their positions at all costs.

 This attack was the most brutal.  The NVA, charging ahead under mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, filled the jungle with explosions and shrapnel in a desperate final attack.  Lt. Col. Rogers stood tall, again directing his troops, but when a Vietnamese mortar shell detonated over one of his howitzers, killing most of the gun crew, this ferocious one-man army sprung into action, personally racing over and manning the gun almost by himself.

Rogers point-blank blasted the enemy at zero elevation, rocking fire straight into the hard-charging enemy forces.  Another heavy mortar round blasted his artillery piece, blowing the thing up in his face, knocking him from his feet, and racking his body with twisted metal shrapnel.  Unable to stand, and bleeding badly, he continued to shout directions and orders to his men, encouraging them to fight on, directing fire even as medics were tending to his wounds.

The line held.

 By the time Richard Nixon awarded Charles Calvin Rogers the Medal of Honor in 1970, Rogers had already been back in ‘Nam for a year.  He would serve through the rest of the war, then be transferred to Germany, where he was promoted to Major General, given command of NATO’s VII Corps Artillery in Berlin, and spent the late 70s and early 80s preparing plans to counter a possible Soviet attack against West Germany.  When that didn’t look like it would actually ever happen he retired in 1984, got an M.A., and became a Baptist minister.

He remains the highest ranking Black American to ever receive the Medal of Honor.

Links:

http://aavw.org/served/cmoh_rogers_abstract01.html

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2456411/posts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Calvin_Rogers

Sources:

Reef, Catherine.  African Americans in the Military.  Infobase, 2010.

Sutherland, Jonathan.  African Americans at War.  ABC-CLIO, 2004.

Tingstrom, Edwin C.  Courage and Valor.  Xlibris, 2013.

Having a Good Long Game – How to Make Difficult Choices

Over the last four or five months my wife and I had been faced with a very difficult decision.  Back in April, someone at my firm reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to transfer to our St. Louis, Missouri office to head up our Credits and Incentives practice.  While it was (or is) a great professional opportunity I can’t claim it was my life long dream to live in Missouri.

My wife and I had discussed possibly moving out of New York City in 4 -5 years but suddenly we had this really great opportunity presented to us out of the blue.  However, it would mean moving away  from New York City, the city I love and am passionate about.  It would mean my wife moving a LONG way from her family (who of course blame me for the move, despite my wife being more excited about it than me.  No racist undertones there.) We would be moving to a state where we knew virtually no one and where neither of us had family or connections.  It would mean having to find a new church home, making a whole new group of friends (which if you have tried this after college is a lot harder than it should be) and it would also mean having to own a car and drive everywhere.  Truth be told the move would mean a lot of things would be very different for us. Some of those would be very positive and others not as much.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details.  I will just say that I really struggled with the decision.  Spent a lot of time talking to people at work, friends, family and other assorted people whose opinions I respect.  I prayed about, thought about it and dreamed about it even.  Some days I was convinced we weren’t going to go.  Other times I was convinced we were.  There were even some days when I went back and fourth all day long about what we would or wouldn’t be doing.

Ultimately, we decided to accept the job offer and have started to plan our move to St. Louis in November (to any of my friends who just found out from reading this blog please accept my apologies.)  I learned a few things when it comes to making a decision like this and I thought I would share in hopes it might help you in the future.

Please understand that I don’t take what follows lightly.  Making the decision to move to St. Louis was one of the most difficult choices I have ever had to make.  There is so much more at stake when you are married and expecting a child.  At times I felt that our whole family was on the line based on my decision.  This wasn’t true of course but it sure felt that way at times.  Thankfully my wife fully supported which ever decision I (or we) made; yet sometimes I wished she wasn’t so supportive so I could blame her for my decision one way or the other.  In my mind it would go something like this “Hi boss, yes I was really excited about the business opportunity but in the end my wife hated St. Louis…doesn’t want to leave her family…can’t imagine not having a Zara, BCBG or other high end fashion store close by, so I am going to have to pass and stay in New York.”  Take all the onus off me and place it on the shoulders of my poor wife (yea not a good idea.)

Here are three of the most important things I learned in the process.

1. The Importance of A Long Game

Yes you are correct. She isn’t wearing proper golf shoes.

I am an only child.  As such, you can say that growing up I was a bit spoiled when it came to certain things.  My parents didn’t have a lot of money but always tried to give me whatever I wanted.  Sometimes I was more successful than others (still waiting for that awesome electronic race track I asked for 8 years in a row.)  Despite my father’s best attempts I always struggled with choosing long term benefit over short term gain.  This is one of the reasons it has taken me a long time to learn to be disciplined with my money and something I continue to struggle with from time to time.  I was just one of many who learned the hard way in college about credit cards etc.

I share that because sometimes I can be very short sighted when it comes to decision making.  If there isn’t a huge benefit now I don’t want to take the opportunity regardless of the long term benefits.  This is especially true if in the short term it might require extra discipline or pain to get to the long term benefits.

I share this because I wasn’t terribly impressed with the salary offer.  While many of you would probably not understand that if I went into specifics you just need to trust me.  True we would be going from a high cost of living state to a low cost of living state, but I would also be losing my wife’s salary in the process and she makes pretty good money here in NYC.  There were additional costs associated with St. Louis that we don’t have in New York so the gap was shrinking quickly when it came to “all this money” we would supposedly have in St. Louis.

However, in one of the rare moments of my lifetime I realized the long term benefits beat out the short term obstacles or level of discomfort we might have the first few years.  If I do well in my new role (which I believe I will) I have confidence that over the long term I will be rewarded financially and otherwise.  I likely can make more now in the Midwest than I would in the NE over the long haul.  In addition, a chance like this might not be around in 4 -5 years.  When you ask to be transferred you lose all negotiating leverage.  We also will be able to afford a real grown up home much sooner in St. Louis than we ever could have in New York City.

So to belabor the point a little more, I learned that for the sake of my family long term growth was always more favorable to short term growth or accomplishments.  Sometimes answering the knock on the door isn’t as attractive as you want it to be so you have to see the potential in the opportunity rather than what it looks like today.

2. Take Yourself Out of the Equation

At some point I quit talking to my friends about the opportunity and tried to see it from an outside perspective.  If one of my friends told me they had this opportunity what would I tell them? One of the first things I thought was I would tell them not to make the decision based on selfish motivations.  Once you are married and especially with a child on the way you can no longer afford to be selfish; especially when it comes to such a significant opportunity.

I had plenty of reasons to be selfish about my decision to stay in New York City.  Unlike many people I didn’t move here to “make it”, to star in a movie or Broadway show nor did I relocate here to make an obscene amount of money.  My sole motivation was because I loved it here and wanted to live here.  Even before I moved here I realized it probably wouldn’t be forever but I wanted to make it last as long as I could.  Thus, the idea of moving to St. Louis for work related reasons was not all that thrilling for me.  I won’t go into all the reasons why I love New York but it has and will continue to be hard to let it go.  People keep saying “you can always come back and visit.”  I don’t want to.  The joy of living here is living here, not visiting.  I don’t want to have to turn in my NY card.  Coming back here as a tourist disgusts me.

There were also some professionally selfish reasons for staying.  I have a great team here and have been very successful in my practice.  The people who work for me are responsive, highly competent individuals who work hard and bust their asses to make sure things get done the right way.  I work for an amazing boss who despite my stubbornness, has managed to get the most out of my talent and gifts.  I am not entirely confident that will continue in St. Louis.  Besides, I am very comfortable here with my team and will miss working with most of them (the one douche-bag Cardinal fan to be excluded of course.)

However, when I stepped into another pair of shoes I quickly realized that most, if not all, of those reasons were all about me and not about the betterment of my family.  Looking at it objectively there were so many better reasons to make the move and most of them had nothing to do with me.  It can be difficult to remove yourself and your own motivations from a decision like this.  However, when it comes to a major decision, observing the situation objectively, is key to getting the full picture.

3. Sometimes Risk Taking is Required

One of the most common themes throughout the whole process was that moving to St. Louis involved a certain amount of risk on both our parts.  For the most part I have already laid out what those risks are.

As a single man I was always more than willing to take a risk and see what would happen.  Yet when you get married there is almost a natural transformation that takes place and you start to become more risk-adverse.  It is rather strange.

What I came to realize is that we, as a family, were uniquely positioned to be able to absorb this risk rather easily.  Because we do not have any connections or family in St. Louis, if things don’t work out, we won’t feel any family pressure to stay in St. Louis.  Or child likely will still be too young to have formed serious attachments to whatever friends she has there.  We also wouldn’t need to pull her out of school since that is still more than 5 years away.  With all my experience in New York I already know if I needed to find a job I could probably get one quickly somewhere in the Northeast if we needed to move back.  In addition, we are a medium length drive to my parents in Minnesota so we could always head up there if things got dicey for us.

Sometimes you just have to take a risk.  This is especially true when there is so much upside to the opportunity.  If you are married you shouldn’t take that risk without discussing it with your significant other of course.  Go for it!  Chase after your dream.  Step out of the boat.  Jump off the cliff.

Live should be an adventure and I think too often as adults we purposely make our lives less interesting than we would like.

What things would you consider if you had a similar opportunity to move?  What would hold you back?  What would propel you forward?  Think about these things now and it will better prepare to you recognize and seize opportunities when they come your way.