Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lessons Learned from Flag Football

I recently finished coaching my 8-year-old son’s NFL flag football team, the Green Bay Packers. We played in a league of 13 teams and as each week passed with another victory, we felt we had a good chance of having an undefeated season. That was before we played the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts had a receiver that was a foot taller than our biggest player and a quarterback that could throw 30 yard passes perfectly. We lost our game to the Colts by 35 points, giving up many 70 yard touchdown passes.

At the start of each practice, I would take a few minutes with my 11 boys to teach them a principle of success. Following our big loss to the Colts, I shared this story with them. “Once there was a man who worked for IBM and he made a mistake that cost his company $10 million. After making this mistake, the man was called in to meet with the company founder and CEO, Tom Watson, Sr. The nervous employee entered the office and took a seat. He sat in silence, waiting for the CEO to speak, but the silence continued. Finally the employee said, “I guess you want my resignation?” The CEO replied, “You can’t be serious. We’ve just spent $10 million educating you!”

I told the boys that we must come to view mistakes not as failure but as learning experiences. I then asked the boys how many of them had younger siblings. When their siblings were learning to walk, did they ever fall down? The boys all shook their heads in the affirmative. I then explained that just as a baby falls when learning to walk, we will all make mistakes and fail when we are learning to do new things. Failure is a part of learning and doing something new. We had never played a team like the Colts that could throw and catch long passes, and we had never practiced defending long passes; therefore, we were not very good at defending this type of pass. That day we practiced defending long passes and by the end of practice, we were much better at it.

We won the rest of our games and earned the number two seed in our league tournament. The Colts finished the season undefeated and were the number one seed. We knew we would not have to face them unless both of our teams made it to the championship game. As it turned out, this is exactly what happened, and we found ourselves with another opportunity to play against the Colts for the championship. Our team was excited. The game was close and came down to the final play. We had a chance from the three-yard line to win the game, but were unable to score.

Following handshakes with the Colts and shouting our team cheer, I had our team come together one last time to talk. I told the boys, “I am very proud of you today. We started the season saying we wanted to do three things:

1. Have fun
2. Do your best
3. Get better each week.”

I asked the boys if they had fun playing football this season and they replied with an enthusiastic “yes!” I then asked the boys if they had done their best each game, to which they responded in the affirmative. I told the boys that they each had improved greatly since the start of the season and even though we came up short on the scoreboard in the championship game that they were winners since we had accomplished our three goals as a team.

Our two loses to the Colts reminded me of a story from the life of Michael Jordan. Three years in a row (1988, 1989, 1990) Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Detroit Pistons. Some questioned whether the Bulls would ever make it to the NBA finals. In an interview following another playoff defeat to the Pistons, Michael Jordan was asked why they could not beat the Pistons. Michael Jordan responded by saying that the Bulls could not worry about the Detroit Pistons. Instead they needed to focus on improving their team and getting better so they could beat anyone. Michael Jordan and the Bulls went on to win 6 NBA titles over the next 8 years. Michael Jordan wrote, “I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come. I don’t do things half-heartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results.”

Walter Payton, one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, taught, “A winner is somebody who has given his best effort, who has tried the hardest they possibly can, who has utilized every ounce of energy and strength within them to accomplish something. It doesn’t mean that they accomplished it or failed, it means that they’ve given it their best. That’s a winner.”

I had received medals for the boys from the league. As I placed the medals around each of their necks, I gave each boy an individualized compliment and thanked him for being a part of our team. Each boy’s face lit up as he received his compliment and medal. I told the boys how much I had enjoyed coaching them and that I was going to miss them. Much to my surprise, I began to get emotional during this process, for I had come to love these 11 boys, and I was really going to miss working with them each week.

“Success is not a single event but a process. What matters more than where you are is the direction you are heading.” -Cameron C. Taylor

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lessons Learned from Roger Bannister

In 1952, Roger Bannister set the goal to be the first man to run a mile under four minutes and intensified his training. The record for the mile run remained at 4:01.4 seconds for 9 years. “For years, the four-minute mile was considered not merely unreachable but, according to physiologists of the time, dangerous to the health of any athlete who attempted to reach it.” (Bruce Lowitt, “Bannister Stuns World with 4-Minute Mile” St. Petersburg Times, December 17, 1999) On May 6th 1954, Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4, setting a new world record and breaking the thought to be impossible barrier. In an interview, Roger Bannister said, “There was a mystique, a belief that it couldn’t be done, but I think it was more of a psychological barrier than a physical barrier.” (David M. Ewalt and Lacey Rose, “The Greatest Individual Athletic Achievements,” Forbes, January 29, 2008)

Once Roger Bannister removed this psychological barrier the door was opened for others to achieve this feat. On June 21, 1954, just 46 days after Bannister had set this record, John Landy broke Bannister’s record in Turku, Finland. Today there are hundreds of people who have run a mile in under four minutes.

Many people have been conditioned with thoughts of what can’t be done. Studies have shown that within the first eighteen years of our lives, the average person is told “no” more than 148,000 times. (Shad Helmstetter, What to Say When You Talk to Your Self (New York: Pocket Books, 1986), 20) We are constantly being told by parents, friends, teachers, television, and co-workers what we cannot do. This conditioning causes many of us to achieve a small fraction of our potential and result in a pessimistic approach to life. A pessimist approaches life with statements of what can’t be done instead of asking how it can be done.

To dispel the pessimist in each of us, we must transform our approach to life by finding solutions instead of excuses. I often hear people give the excuse, “I can’t do it.” Instead of giving an excuse, they should find a solution that begins by asking the question, “How can I do it?” Instead of saying “I can’t afford it,” or “It’s impossible,” begin asking the questions, “How can I afford it?” and “How is it possible?” This small change in our approach to life will produce great outcomes. Elbert Hubbard wrote, “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”

Lesson One: Instead of saying “That’s Impossible” ask the question “How is it Possible?”

The only two men in the world to have broken the four-minute barrier were set to compete against each other on August 7, 1954; just 6 weeks after John Landy had broken Roger Bannister four-minute mile world record. The event took place at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, B.C. The race was billed as “The Miracle Mile” and 35,000 filled Empire Stadium and hundreds of thousands listened on the radio and watched on television.

Landy took and early lead and led for most of the race. He had built a 10-yard lead by the third lap but was overtaken on the last bend by Bannister who won the race with a time of 3 minutes 58.8 seconds. Landy also finished in less than 4 minutes just 0.8 seconds behind Bannister. The crucial moment of the race occurred when Landy looked back over his left shoulder to see where Bannister was and Bannister burst past him on the right to take the lead and the victory. This moment in the race was captured by photographer Charlie Warner and was later turned into a life-size bronze sculpted by Jack Harman in 1967. This sculpture stood for many years at the entrance to Empire Stadium and was eventually moved to the Pacific National Exhibition fairgrounds. When asked about the statue, Landy said, “While Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back, I am probably the only one ever turned into bronze for looking back.”

When we spend time comparing our lives to others it can detract us from doing our personal best. Life is not a competition with others. Life is a competition with yourself—to do your personal best each day.

Lesson 2: We should not ask the question, “How am I doing compared to so and so?” We should ask, “Am I doing my personal best?”

It is by pushing ourselves to our current maximum that we open the door of growth to a new maximum. For example, much of the growth from weightlifting comes from the final reps before you can lift no more. If you could bench press 200 pounds a maximum of 10 reps, 80 percent of muscle growth and increased strength will result from the final two reps and 20 percent of the growth results from the first eight reps. The last two reps are the hardest, but if neglected will cost you 80 percent of your growth. It does not require twice the effort to achieve twice the improvement, because the final efforts of maximum exertion result in exponential returns. Roger Bannister wrote, “The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.”

It is by facing challenges and difficulties that we grow in all areas of our lives. The Bible declares, “Is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.” (James 1:2-4, LB)

Lesson 3: It is by pushing ourselves to our current maximum that we open the door of growth to a new maximum.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Grace and the Scratched Ferrari

I couldn’t let Easter week pass without sharing a message of the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and goodness of Jesus Christ. Please let me know your thought on this message and if you enjoy it please share it with others. The following is an excerpt from my book “Twelve Paradoxes of the Gospel.” You can order this book at www.DoesYourBagHaveHoles.org. The book is also available as an unabridged audio book. Below are the links to order the audio book.

“Twelve Paradoxes of the Gospel” on 4 CDs

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Grace and the Scratched Ferrari
For several years I volunteered as the scoutmaster in our local troop. Our troop was creating a movie to earn the cinematography merit badge, and we needed to film one of the scenes with a luxury car. One of my neighbors at the time had two beautiful Ferraris, so I arranged with him to film the scene at his home.

My son Mitchell, who was five at the time, came with me for the filming and was to have a part in the scene as an elf. We were in my neighbor’s garage, and he was showing me the pictures on his “wall of fame and shame [crashes]” of his various vehicles. As we were looking at the pictures, we heard a crash and turned around to see a chair on the hood of the red Ferrari. In front of the Ferrari was a raised workbench area with a chair on wheels. My son had accidentally knocked the chair off the workbench platform onto the hood of the Ferrari.

My son ran and hid behind one of our friends who was with us, who later told me my son’s heart was beating extremely fast as he waited to see what would happen next. We were each in silence looking at my neighbor, and I was quite impressed by his reaction. He remained calm and said to my son, “That is why they make paint; I will be able to have it fixed.” To see that his immediate reaction was one of patience, love, and concern for my son illustrated that my neighbor truly was a man who had the attributes of forgiveness, love, and patience.

When we arrived home after filming, I told Mitchell that even though it was an accident, he was still responsible for the damage that he had caused, and he needed to give all his money to our neighbor to help pay for the repair. I returned to my neighbor’s home, and I explained my desire to pay to have the Ferrari repaired. I handed him the envelope and told him that my son had emptied his savings and that I had also enclosed a blank check to cover the cost to repair the damage. My neighbor handed me back the envelope and said, “You are a man of honor, but I can’t take this.” I replied, “I am responsible for the damage, and I want to pay to fix it. It’s not fair for you to be responsible for it.” My neighbor then explained that he would be able to have it repaired, and that I did not need to worry about it. He then said, “I view it as a gift.”

My neighbor extended forgiveness and grace to me and my son. He agreed as a gift to pay for the damage to his Ferrari that we were responsible for. Likewise, Christ has paid the price for our sins so we do not have to. We each sin and as a result are in a fallen and imperfect state that separates us from God. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” There is no way for us to perfect ourselves, so a Savior was provided to save us from our sins. Only through Christ’s grace can we be forgiven and avoid paying the penalty for our sins. The New Testament records, “And being in an agony [Christ] prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, KJV) Christ has paid to repair the damage each time we metaphorically scratch a Ferrari with sin.

Just as my neighbor lifted the burden of payment for the damage to the Ferrari, so has Christ lifted from us the burden of sin through his atoning sacrifice in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. The book of Romans declares, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. . . . Being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And . . . we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for . . . all have sinned. . . . For . . . the grace of God, and the gift by grace . . . hath abounded unto many . . . the free gift . . . of . . . justification . . . the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. . . . For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Christ] shall many be made righteous. . . . As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:8–21, KJV)

Christ’s Unconditional Love
When I sin, I am at times initially hesitant to go to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. I have a natural tendency to want to hide, as my son did after scratching the Ferrari and as did Adam and Eve after they partook of the forbidden fruit. Genesis 3:8 reads, “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”

When I sin, Satan and the natural man work to convince me that if I go to the Lord with my sins, the response from the Lord will be one of disappointment, condemnation, and alienation. Satan will put thoughts into my head such as, “You screwed up again. Do your really think the Lord will forgive you for the 432nd time? You are a failure. You are never going to change, so why try? Just give up.” Or with such thoughts as, “Hide so you do not have to experience the disappointment and wrath of the Lord.” You think I would have learned from previous encounters with the Lord seeking forgiveness and example from the scriptures that this would not be the case. The scriptures are filled with stories of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness. The prophet Nehemiah describes Christ as “a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.” (Nehemiah 9:17, KJV)

Nevertheless I still find that I have to fight the tendency to hide my sins from the Lord. Eventually I get up the courage to go to the Lord in prayer and ask for forgiveness again. Each time I petition the Lord in prayer for forgiveness, I am overwhelmed by His outpouring of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. The Lord declares, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. . . . I will forgive . . . and I will remember [your] sin no more.” (Isaiah 1:18, KJV, Jeremiah 31:34, KJV)

The book of 1 John states, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [Christ] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins . . . and the blood of Jesus Christ . . . cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7–9, KJV)

May we each have the strength to resist the temptation to hide from the Lord and have the strength to repent and confess our sins to the Lord, so we may each repeatedly hear the glorious word of the Savior in response to our petition for forgiveness, “Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Matthew 9:2, KJV) We never need to hide from the Lord, for His love and acceptance are not based on performance. His love is unconditional.

My Witness of Christ
True success and happiness are found in the teaching of the Master Jesus Christ. Christ is the light and life and the world and the foundation upon which if men and women will build they shall never fall. I do share my witness that I know that we are each children of a loving Heavenly Father who know each of us personally and intimately. I do testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The accounts of His life and ministry recorded in the New Testament are true. Jesus healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, gave sight unto the blind, and raised the dead, he comforted and lifted the weak, and embraced and forgave the sinner. He lived a perfect life, and he did take upon himself the sins of the world. He is our Savior and Redeemer who is full of grace and truth. He was crucified and His body was laid inside a tomb and on the third day following His death on the cross He did rise from the dead. He is the resurrection and the life. I do share my witness that Jesus Christ lives. I know that He lives. I know that Jesus Christ lives. Christ is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. May the grace of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

“The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Psalms 145:9

Have a Wonderful Easter!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Walt Disney – Visionary Leader

“Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them towards a certain goal.” –Walt Disney

Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901. In his youth, he discovered and fell in love with drawing and movies. In 1920, at age 18, Walt formed Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists with Ub Iwerks. The company quickly failed, and Walt and Iwerks went to work as illustrators for the Kansas City Slide Company and there learned the basics of animation. While keeping his job at Kansas City Slide Company, Walt began creating short animated films at night. In 1922, Walt started Laugh-O-Gram Films, Inc. with $15,000 ($192,000 in 2009 dollars) from investors. Laugh-O-Gram Films, Inc. produced several short cartoons including Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, and Cinderella but struggled financially. During this time, Walt had no money for rent so he “slept on rolls of canvas and cushions at the office . . . and subsisted on cold beans he ate from a can. . . He took his baths once a week at Union Station.” (Neal Gabler, Walt Disney (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006) p. 71) In 1923, the company declared bankruptcy and Disney decided to leave Kansas City for Hollywood. To earn the money for the train ticket to Los Angeles, Walt spent two weeks, going door-to-door in high-income areas offering to make films of their children. On his way to LA, a fellow traveler asked Walt where he was going and he replied, “I’m going to direct great Hollywood motion pictures.” (Marc Eliot, Walt Disney (Andre Deutsch Ltd, 1995) p. 23) He always had a dream.

When he arrived in Los Angeles, Walt lived with his Uncle Robert and began making the rounds to the Hollywood studios looking for a job as a director. He applied at every studio in town but was unsuccessful. With no prospects of a job, Walt, now 22 years old, requested loans from Uncle Robert and other friends to start his own studio with his brother Roy, which they called the Disney Brothers Studio. The studio received a contract to produce a series of cartoons called Alice Comedies in which a live girl named Alice had adventures in an animated world with a cat named Julius. The series was successful with the studio producing dozens of cartoons in the series. In 1926, Walt and Roy renamed the studio Walt Disney Studios. Roy said of the renaming, “It was my idea. Walt was the creative member of the team. His name deserved to be on the pictures.” (Bob Thomas, Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire (New York: Hyperion, 1998) p. 53)

From 1926 to 1933 the Walt Disney Studios had several successful creations including Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse, and Three Little Pigs. “Sometime in mid-1933, at the very time he was enjoying the enormous success of Three Little Pigs, [Walt] decide that he needed to chart a new course for the studio—something big and dramatic.” (Neal Gabler, Walt Disney (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006) p. 213) “Walt said, ‘If we were going to get anywhere, we had to get beyond the short subject. I knew that if I could crack the feature field, I could really do things’. . . Whenever Walt talked about making a feature-length animated picture, people responded, ‘A cartoon is fun for seven minutes, but nobody will sit through a ninety-minute cartoon.’ Walt couldn’t help wondering: Why shouldn’t audiences enjoy an all-animated feature, as long as it is filled with drama, action and laughter?’” (Pat Williams, Jim Denney, How to Be Like Walt (Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI, 2004) p. 110) “Walt Disney aimed to do something never before done in the movie industry: create a successful full-length animated feature film.” (James Collins, Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last (New York: Harper Collins, 2002) p. 100-101)

One night in 1934, Walt gathered his top 40 animators and told them the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs performing the voices and actions of each of the characters. At the end of his performance, he said, “That is going to be our first feature-length film.” (Pat Williams, Jim Denney, How to Be Like Walt (Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI, 2004) p. 112)

Roy, who handled the finances of the company, estimated that the creation of Snow White would cost $500,000 ($7 million in 2009 dollars). When people in the industry heard that Walt was creating an animated feature film, they predicted it would be the end of the Walt Disney Studios and called the attempt “Disney’s Folly.” Even Walt’s wife Lilly and brother Roy “tried to talk Walt out of his dream—but when they saw that he was totally committed to it, they gave up. Once Walt made a decision, no one could change his mind.” (Pat Williams, Jim Denney, How to Be Like Walt (Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI, 2004) p. 111) “[The] Walt Disney Company . . . stimulated progress throughout its history by making bold—and often risky—commitments to audacious projects.” (James Collins, Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last (New York: Harper Collins, 2002) p. 100-101)

Walt Disney Studios began work on what would be a 3-year, $1.5 million project ($21 million in 2009 dollars). Walt spent countless hours in a cramped projection room located under the stairwell. The room was dubbed “the sweatbox” because (as Walt put it), “There was no air conditioning and it was hot in there – plus the animators had to go in there and sweat this thing out with me.” (Pat Williams, Jim Denney, How to Be Like Walt (Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI, 2004) p. 116)

Months before the release date for Snow White, Walt and Roy were out of money. Snow White had already cost a million dollars, and a half million more was needed to complete the project. This price tag made the movie more expensive than any live action film ever produced.

Artists felt like they were working on something special, so they voluntarily donated evenings and weekends to complete the project. Meanwhile, Walt spliced what they had together to show to the head of studio loans at Bank of America, Joe Rosenberg, to seek a loan of $500,000 ($7 million in 2009 dollars) to complete the film. Joe Rosenberg liked what he saw and gave Walt the half-million dollar loan.

“Walt spent the final weeks of production ruthlessly cutting to keep the film as tight and fast-paced as possible. By the time it was completed, Snow White had employed more than 750 animation craftsmen. Of an estimated two million drawings created, only 250,000 actually appeared on-screen.” (Pat Williams, Jim Denney, How to Be Like Walt (Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI, 2004) p. 120)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in Los Angeles’ 1,500-seat Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937. The Seven Dwarfs were present in full costume to greet the guests, including dozens of Hollywood’s biggest stars who arrived in limousines. Surrounding the theater was a full-size replica of the dwarfs’ cottage, a mill with a running waterfall, and a forest scene. An orchestra played music from the movie as search lights filled the sky. For 83 minutes, the audience was carried into a new world. The audience broke out in spontaneous applause throughout the movie, and at the conclusion Walt received a standing ovation.

In its initial release, Snow White earned $8.5 million ($126 million in 2009 dollars). This allowed Disney Studios to pay off its massive debt and also construct a new $3.8 million ($58 million in 2009 dollars) studio in Burbank which today continues to be the center of Disney animation.

Snow White went from “Disney’s Folly” to becoming the highest grossing film of all time and at age 36 Walt Disney had made history. The film has been re-released several times since its first release in 1937 and has now has earned over $782 million when adjusted for inflation. (Retrieved August 11, 2009 from http://www.boxofficemojo.com/alltime/adjusted.htm)

Walt’s oldest grandson, Chris Miller, said of Walt, “My grandfather had big dreams and goals . . . and he persevered until he achieved them. . . His life teaches all of us to believe in our dreams, to be daring in the pursuit of our goals, and to never back away from a challenge. Walt Disney was an adventurer at heart, and the way he lived is an example to us all.” (Pat Williams, Jim Denney, How to Be Like Walt (Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI, 2004) p. 124)

Walt Disney should inspire each of us to ask, “What are my big goals and dreams? What accomplishment is going to be my Snow White, my Disneyland? What can I do to make the world a better place?”

This is an excerpt from the book 8 Attributes of Great Achievers by Cameron C. Taylor

About Cameron C. Taylor
Cameron is the author of several books including Does Your Bag Have Holes? 24 Truths That Lead to Financial and Spiritual Freedom, 8 Attributes of Great Achievers, and Twelve Paradoxes of the Gospel. Learn more at his website www.DoesYourBagHaveHoles.org