Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Benefits & Bliss of Simplicity

Growing up, I knew a fellow who was very ambitious, but was also disorganized and scatterbrained. Rather than focusing on ONE main thing, or even a few important things, this fellow seemed to be everywhere at once. As a result, he accumulated a large amount of material possessions and often got himself into situations that unnecessarily stressed him out. The excess anxiety, in-turn, often wore him out and—ironically—ended up inhibiting both his ambition and productivity. 

This person and his spouse were once visiting with a spiritual leader who, although a man of few words, was very wise. True to form and personality, this wise leader of few words gave the man and his wife some valuable advice summed up in a single word: SIMPLIFY.

SIMPLIFY

Simplifying your life is the topic of today's article. 

Sadly, my friend chose not to heed the advice of his wise spiritual counselor. As a result, he continued to make decisions that caused him a great deal of stress and grief in his life, career, and relationships, thus hindering his success and happiness in a variety of ways.  

Fortunately, however, I was blessed to hear the story of this wise one-word piece of advice when I was still just a young person in my teens. For whatever reasons, this counsel—although intended for someone else—gradually sank deep into my own mind and heart. It has particularly resonated with me in more recent years, causing me to make the word SIMPLIFY a soul-penetrating slogan whose import is nearly on par with another of my life's core mantras: "No regrets!"

Simplify... it sounds simple enough; but how do you actually accomplish it?    

Simplifying your life begins with identifying, clarifying, and prioritizing your values. Once you are crystal clear on what really matters most to you in your life, career, and relationships, you can begin to establish your personal and professional vision, mission, goals, standards, etc. In other words, you can begin drafting your own Self-Declaration of Independence (S-DoI) and Self-Constitution (S-C)—a key component of the Self-Action Leadership Model.

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook Volume II, where you can learn how to draft a Self-DoI and S-C.

A personal goal and career focus of mine the past FOUR (4) years has been to simplify my life and career. Perhaps the single most important decision I made in this process was to DELETE my personal FACEBOOK account.

I had been on Facebook for the previous eight or nine years, during which time I had connected with approximately 1,000 family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Along the way, I engaged in many meaningful connections and communications.

This was a good thing.

Over time, however, it began to become a distraction from things that were more important to me. Then, one day in January 2017—almost exactly four (4) years ago—I foolishly allowed myself to become entangled in an online argument with one of my connections. However important the subject matter (over which we were arguing) may have been in and of itself, arguing about it accomplished what arguing about anything usually accomplishes—NOTHING except elevated blood pressure and negative feelings.

This experience became a trigger for me to delete my personal Facebook account once and for good.

And I have never looked back.   

The past four years have been wonderfully simpler years, and argument free—at least on social media platforms (SMILE). I also took advantage of an opportunity to clear the air and make peace with my connection I had been bickering with online. It felt good to do that. We still don't see eye-to-eye on the subject we were debating, and the two of us may never be "kindred spirits," but that is okay; both of our lives are better for being friends rather than frenemies. 

Now... at this point in the article it is essential to make something clear. I am NOT suggesting that you delete your Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or other social media account. Just because that particular action was right for me doesn't necessarily mean it will be right for you.

I still have professional Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, and I proactively and productively use all of these social media platforms on a regular basis for my work. Moreover, my wife still has a facebook account and I am glad she does because it provides me with hundreds of connections to friends and family that come in handy from time-to-time. In fact, she may even share this article on her facebook page! 

My purpose in sharing this personal story, experience, and decision is not to suggest that you follow in my footsteps and do the same thing. My goal is merely to provide a tangible example as food for thought.

I do not know what YOU need to do to simplify your life. I merely know what I needed to do to simplify my own life. As I carefully pondered the unique circumstances surrounding my own personal situation, I then acted honestly based on my conscience-imbued, authentic instincts. As a result, I came to an independent conclusion and made a personal decision that has both simplified and blessed my life.

Deleting my facebook account is just ONE prominent example of what I have done in recent years to simplify my life. I have taken a variety of other, more personal decisions and actions over those same four years that have truly changed my life for the better.

That is the power of simplifying your life.

Despite my many responsibilities as a husband, father, and business owner-leader, I can say with satisfaction that my life is about as simple as it has ever been as an adult. And insofar as possible—within a framework of my life's core duties—I aim to always keep it that way moving forward forever into the future.    

As you consider what you might do in 2021 to simplify your own life, remember that simplifying should NOT be confused with underachievement or the dilution of life quality. The goal of simplification is NOT to lower your standards, lessen your aim, or weaken your resolve for achievement. Rather, it is to eliminate any distractions that may impede your capacity for both resolve and achievement. In other words, actions aimed to simplify should actually enhance your performance, improve your results, and increase your quality of life—not the other way around. Self-action leaders simplify not merely to make life easier and less stressful; we also simplify in order to magnify our efforts and maximize our achievements and contributions.  

Thus, simplification is, in a very real sense, a key to our highest aspirations and our greatest accomplishments.    

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn how to live a life that is "Not in Vain."  

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays.      

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook, Volume I

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook, Volume II

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

God Save the Queen

Queen Elizabeth II
of the United Kingdom
For my holiday message this year, I would like to share a special address from Elizabeth II, Queen of England.

This may surprise some of my readers, who, like me, are enthusiastic American-born patriots of the USA. Such readers may even view the British Monarchy as a bit of an unnecessary accoutrement of a bygone era—and a particular oddity in the twenty-first century.

Although it is no secret that my personal loyalties will always lie first-and-foremost with American democratic-republicanism, I must confess that I am, secondarily speaking, something of a British Anglophile, and with good reason.  

Aside from being an English major (bachelor's degree) and lover of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Lewis, etc., as well as Arthurian and Robin Hood legends, most of my progenitors (on both sides of my family) hail from the British Isles. Indeed, I am, ancestrally speaking, about 85-90% British

Perhaps this explains my tolerance of the British Monarchy, a position I hold not for the sake of any sordid tabloid curiosity, but rather for the potentially positive symbols of strength, solidarity, tradition, and service that its members seek to personify and represent throughout the Commonwealth and world.  

Great Britain is a remarkable place with an extraordinary history. From the Magna Carta in the early thirteenth century (1215) to the Elizabethan rise to global hegemony in the late sixteenth century (1588); from Wellington stopping Napoleon in the early nineteenth century to Churchill's rescue of the Western World 80 years ago. And who can possibly match the matchless works of the Immortal Bard? Suffice it to say, there is an awful lot to admire throughout English history, culture, and literature—at least as viewed through my biased eyes.  

The United Kingdom of 
Great Britain and Northern Ireland
No country is perfect, of course, and Britain is certainly not without its sins. But on the whole, and viewed through a lens of what they have done right rather than what they have done wrong (at Freedom Focused, our aim is to focus primarily on a person or nation's virtues and victories rather than their vices and defeats), Britain has for centuries been an example to the rest of the world of excellence, productivity, possibility, courage, and resolve. The seedbed of the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century, that little Island—roughly the size of the State of Alabama—has probably produced a higher number (per capita) of noted men and women of science, literature, philosophy, art, medicine, and technology than any other nation in all of human history.  

Although Britain remains but a shadow of its former empire—upon which the sun never set for three centuries—the United Kingdom remains a respected and influential member of the G7 in the twenty-first century; a shining beacon of relative peace and stability in a world increasingly bereft of both. Moreover, their early abolition of the Slave Trade in conjunction with their own voluntary diminution of their overseas colonial holdings further evinces the positive core values that serve as their collective ideological foundation stones.

Queen Elizabeth on
Australian Currency in 1966
In contemporary times, I have come to admire Queen Elizabeth II—the longest serving monarch in English history, even longer than the famous Queen Victoria, who ruled the mightiest empire in all human history (up to her time) for an incredible 64 years! This is no small feat considering their were 60 monarchs who preceded her for a total of nearly 1,200 years. The longevity of that heritage puts into perspective the relative nascence of the United States and its more recent rise to global supremacy.

Over time, I've also grown to admire Prince William (heir to the throne) and his lovely wife, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. I do not personally know these people (yet), but I have been impressed from a distance at the ways in which they conduct themselves and represent their nation.  

The future King of England is just three years younger than I am. He got married three years after me, and at the exact same age (28). He and Kate subsequently brought a boy, girl, and then another boy into the world the precise years (2013, 2015, & 2018) and within a few short months of Lina's and my boy, girl, and another boy. With such a striking familial trajectory, it has been hard not to notice the unfolding life story of this budding English monarch and his elegant bride, both of whom are about my age.  

King George V
of the United Kingdom
For the past 88 years, the reigning English King (or Queen) has delivered a special message to the Commonwealth on Christmas Day. The first of such messages was delivered on December 15, 1932 by King George V, Queen Elizabeth II's grandfather. The speech was written by Britain's 1907 Nobel Prize winning poet, Rudyard Kipling (author of "IF" — a standard classic SAL poem at Freedom Focused). 

King George the Fifth's inaugural Christmas Day address was delivered on the radio, a popular new form of mass communication (at the time) that Winston Churchill would so masterfully employ a few years later during the Second World War.  

Twenty (20) years after King George the Fifth's first Christmas Day speech, his granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, delivered the FIRST Christmas Address of her reign in 1952. Five years after that, Elizabeth delivered the first Royal Christmas message to be broadcast on television. An extraordinary 62 years later, the same Queen gave her most recent (68th) Christmas address on December 25, 2019, now available to the entire world on YouTube.  

I recently came across this speech while helping my second-grade son, Tucker, with a homework assignment about England. 

I hope you appreciate and enjoy this message as much as I did. It is delivered by a truly remarkable human being who has been a pillar of strength, resolve, and consistency over the course of her nearly 95 years on the Planet. You will be impressed with how prescient her words were, so much so, in fact, that last year's address feels more like a message that was meant to be given this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Click HERE to watch the Queen's Christmas Message.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Old Year's Resolutions

DECEMBER is always the best month to go to the GYM
December has always been one of my favorite months to go to the GYM. 

Why?

Because there aren't many people who go to the gym in December; and it's sooooo nice! Not only is it quieter and more peaceful in December, but the smaller crowds make waiting times a rarity. 

January, on the other hand, is a different story—and especially the first two or three weeks of a New Year. The reason, of course, is because everyone and their Aunt Suzie is there trying to make good on their New Year's Resolutions to lose weight and get in shape.

Fortunately—for me (and unfortunately for everyone and their Aunt Suzie)—things start quieting down again by late January. Things then ebb and flow (but overall ebb) gradually into an inevitable annual decrescendo into December, and so it goes year-in-and-year-out.  

The older I get, the more disenchanted I become with the idea of "New Year's Resolutions." The reason for my discontent is two-fold. 

First, New Year's Resolutions rarely last, even for extra-motivated SAL-guys like me. And second, January first may—or may not—be an ideal time to set a new goal for self-improvement in a given life arena, which is one of the reasons New Year's Resolutions rarely last.

At Freedom Focused, we believe GOALS should not be held hostage to a calendar. They should be spontaneously, flexibly, and consistently set based on your own unique circumstances, needs, and desires for improvement and growth.

In other words, it doesn't really make sense to arbitrarily set goals just because the calendar reads "January 1st," or to not set any goals because the calendar reads some other date. Doing that is kind of like being nice to people at Christmas time while being a Scrooge the rest of the year.

There is really only one viable assessment of that approach...

Bah... humbug!

To us at Freedom Focused, it makes a LOT MORE SENSE to strategically and flexibly set goals whenever and wherever we need to work on a given area in our lives.

The calendar should have nothing to do with it.  

For Example: About six weeks ago I recognized I needed to make a BIG change in my physical fitness. Earlier in the year, I had trained diligently for seven months in preparation for an Ironman 70.3 Triathlon scheduled for early August in Boulder, Colorado. Unfortunately, like so many other events during the COVID-19 Pandemic, my triathlon got cancelled. 

Then, in mid-August, I lost my two ace babysitters when their virtual schooling started back up again. With my big event passed and my babysitters gone, my training went downhill fast. As a result, I started to lose the fitness I had worked so hard to earn. I also began to gain unwanted weight. I'm not gonna lie; it was a pretty discouraging situation with limited options for resolution.

But then... out of the throes of frustration, I got an idea.

I could ask my wonderful wife if she would be so kind as to buy me a treadmill as an early Christmas gift. That way, I could make an "Old Year's Resolution" to begin the long, gradual process of getting back into top shape several weeks before the New Year dawned.    

OLD  YEAR'S  RESOLUTION  Defined: A "New Year's Resolution" set in November or December (or any other month besides January) of the previous year, instead of January of the New Year, thus enabling you to get a head start on your goal before the New Year even arrives.

By setting "Old Year's Resolutions" instead of New Year's Resolutions, you will have already made significant progress on your goal by the time the New Year rolls around. Then, instead of having to grit your teeth and painfully re-engage your willpower from ground zero in early January, you'll already have momentum going into the New Year. This approach makes it easier to continue pursuing your goals long after January is over. It also provides you with extra motivation to continue to persist until you have succeeded in achieving your goal.

Now I know what many of my readers are probably thinking right now...

"Well Jordan... that's great that your wife can afford to buy you a treadmill to help you get back in shape. But neither me nor my significant other can afford that kind of purchase. So what are we supposed to do?" 

GOOD QUESTION!

All I have to say is: welcome to the majority of my past life!

Indeed, for most of my life, my wife and I were relatively broke, middle class kids, teenagers, and then young adults. We have only more recently gotten to the point in our lives and careers where we can afford to make purchases like a quality commercial treadmill for home exercise. I have spent most of my life working out at/on public schools and gyms, city streets, country trails, high school or college tracks, and otherwise exercising "on the cheap." 

And that's okay!

In fact it was good for me as a younger self-action leader to be creative and proactive in finding affordable ways to work out. My past experiences also led me to value my new treadmill far more than I would if my wife and I had not "paid our dues" for many years before obtaining such a luxury.

You always appreciate something more if you have to work for it.  

If you are creative and proactive, there are always other options that can fit into any budget. Self-action leaders find a way to pursue and achieve the goals they are serious about regardless of the difficulties, limitations, and obstacles they face along the way.

I had to "pay my dues" by being creative and proactive for many years when my budget was leaner. And even though our budget is not as tight as it used to be, I still had to be creative enough to successfully frame my new exercise machine as my wife's kind-and-loving early Christmas Present! Fortunately, my wife—the CFO of our family—really is very kind and loving, and she willingly acquiesced to my healthy desire. Plus, it was a pretty easy sell since I know she'd also like to see me lose some of my recently gained weight!

My new treadmill in our garage on which I have already
logged 11 workouts since its arrival on December 1st.
A New Year will be here in a little over two weeks. That gives you a few more days to consider what Old Year Resolutions (GOALS) you could start NOW, instead of waiting til January first to half-heartedly drum-up some arbitrary aspirations that are likely to fizzle by the time Martin Luther King, Jr. Day passes. 

And in the meantime, you can be absolutely assured that I'll be running on my treadmill (or exercising outside) 5-6 days per week up through December 31st and well beyond. As a result, I will be well on my way to getting back into top shape by the New Year, rather than just starting from ground zero on January 1st. And it will give me something more to celebrate on New Year's Eve than the mere fact that the calendar has changed.

I am really looking forward to my Ironman 70.3 Triathlon in Boulder, Colorado on Saturday, August 7, 2021. I am going to be even more ready next year than I was this year when my event got cancelled. And I am going to wear my new treadmill out in the process!  

That's my fitness goal for 2021.

          What is yours?  

...........................................................................................................................................................................

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems, why I love it so much, and the wisdom it carries for all of us. 

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays.

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused.

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook, Volume I

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook, Volume II   
 

 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Why I Started My Own Company, Part 3: A Quest to BUILD

The Summer of 2020 will forever be remembered as a
season of violence and unrest in America.
This article is the third and final installment of a 3-part series dedicated to answering the question: "Why did I choose to start my own company?"

This past summer, Americans saw large numbers of their fellow citizens take to the streets to deface, damage, tear down, burn to the ground, or otherwise destroy a variety of different things, including both public and private property in cities throughout their nation.

These actions were purportedly undertaken in an effort to end racism and air a variety of other related and unrelated personal, political, and cultural grievances. Sadly, this pattern of violence and unrest seems to be growing more common in our increasingly cynical and divided culture. 

Unfortunately, many people erroneously believe that the best way to bring about positive change is to tear down existing structures.

Few sights are more beautiful or exciting to me
as a construction project being built correctly.
At Freedom Focused, we take a different approach.

Instead of tearing things down we DON'T like, agree with, or believe in, we do the exact opposite: we build things up that we DO like, agree with, and believe in.

In the long run, which method do YOU think has more power to open hearts, build bridges of trust, and bring about positive and needed changes that will benefit the most people of all races and backgrounds? 

Tearing things down, or building things UP?

Critics of our premise would argue, of course, that in order to build up something new, you must first tear down an old or existing structure. While that might be literally true in some regards, the issue at hand is not so much what you are tearing down, but how you go about doing so.

Moreover, a compelling argument can be made that negative structures will, in time, crumble atop their own flawed foundations if enough positive structures are built up all around it.

This process harnesses the power of positive peer pressure to get people to do the right things not by force—and not even because you think they should—but rather because they themselves want and choose to of their own FREE WILL.    

By taking a constructive rather than a destructive approach, you can accomplish your objective of eliminating negative structures over time without leaving a devastating and completely unnecessary wake of gratuitous and wanton destruction in your path.

It's the ultimate "Win/Win" arrangement.     

Throughout history, the greatest human beings have never been conquerers, sowers of discord and destruction, or manufacturers of mayhem.

The greatest men and women have always been BUILDERS, INVENTORS, and TEACHERS. From Socrates and Jesus to Confucius and Siddārtha Gautama (the Buddha) and from Michaelangelo, Edison, and Florence Nightingale to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Great people envision a better future. They then
plan, design, prepare, and build a better future.
Great people do not tear things down.

          Great people build things up.  

I have always admired architects, engineers, builders, inventors, and teachers.

My Father was both a builder and a teacher. He spent most of his career either building things (houses, apartments, etc.) or building people.

How did he build people? By parenting seven children and teaching students in traditional classrooms at the middle school and high school levels. 

I love and admire my Dad for the noble work he accomplished in the fields of education and construction throughout his incredibly productive life. And then there are the remarkable things he and my Mom accomplished in raising SEVEN (7) children, of which I am number six. And as crazy as it may sound these days for a single set of parents to bear and raise seven children, you can imagine how grateful I personally am that they didn't stop after only FIVE (5)! Indeed, my parent's single-most productive, positive, and constructive contribution to this world was the procreation of their seven children, who have, in-turn, bore them 31 grandchildren. And an even higher number of great-grandchildren are right around the corner!  

It's a truly remarkable legacy—one that is a virtual lock to live on for at least as long as this world stands.    

My Father, Rex Buckley Jensen, was a Builder
and a Teacher. I was a Daddy's Boy and 
am his namesake: Jordan REX Jensen.
Is it any wonder that I am also 
a teacher and a builder?
A rural renaissance man who also spent two decades teaching school, my Dad was also a grocer, general contractor, land developer, journalist, photographer, entrepreneur, and church leader. Suffice it to say, he is an unusually ambitious and motivated person. Skilled with his hands and very intelligent, he was also a talented writer and gifted teacher. He could work harder, longer, and accomplish more in a days' time than just about anyone I have ever known.

My Dad was my hero growing up. As a little boy, I wanted to be wherever he was and help with whatever project he was working on. And he always included me in whatever I wanted to be involved in. Indeed, I personally helped Dad and my older brothers build a great many things, including a log cabin on land my dad owned—when I was only six years old!  

One of my earliest professional ambitions was to become a carpenter and build homes—just like my Dad. A few years later, while still in elementary school, I thought perhaps I would someday become an architect. Over time, I came to discover that I was poorly suited for both of these careers. However, I never lost my desire to build. My ambitions merely evolved from physical construction projects to metaphysical construction projects in the form of theory, education, training, organization, and leadership.

I look forward to a future day when physical construction begins on Freedom Focused offices and properties. I am even more eager for the day when Freedom Focused begins to hire increasing numbers of leaders, managers, trainers, and staff members who will represent it and take its vital message throughout the United States and World.

After all, the most important building project of all is the construction of human lives and careers.  

As much as we will always value our physical products, properties, and tools, our primary aim at Freedom Focused is not to build things, but to build people. And while the old saying: "No margin, no mission" remains a reality in the business world, our goal is not primarily to profit from our products and services. That is merely a secondary value and practical prerequisite to perpetually prolonging our mission. Our fundamental aim—ever and always—is the education, training, and existential growth of each other, followed closely by our clients and students. Our foremost concern is the elevation of the human mind, heart, and spirit of everyone on this planet who seeks to grow. That is why we value greater income equality and eschew exorbitant executive salaries and individual shares of book royalties.   

How do we aim to accomplish this grand objective?

By showing human begins everywhere that they are the "architects of [their own] fate" (Longfellow), and then teaching them how to design their own individual lives and worlds in ways that lead to long-term success, happiness, prosperity, inner peace, and contribution to others.

I end this week's article with a POEM.

And not just any poem. But THE poem that served an important role in the inception of Freedom Focused as an organization. It was also a poem that inspired the construction of the Self-Action Leadership Theory, Model, and Pedagogy. Finally, it is the poem that will continue to inspire Freedom Focused Agents and our clients and students all over the world to become builders who make something truly magnificent out of their lives and careers.     


The Builders

By: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

All are architects of Fate,

    Working in these walls of Time;

Some with massive deeds and great

    Some with ornaments of rhyme.   


Nothing useless is, or low;

    Each thing in its place is best;

And what seems but idle show

    Strengthens and supports the rest.


For the structure that we raise,

    Time is with materials filled;

Our to-days and yesterdays

    Are the blocks with which we build.


Truly shape and fashion these;

    Leave no yawning gaps between;

Think not, because no man sees,

    Such things will remain unseen.


In the elder days of Art,

    Builders wrought with greatest care

Each minute and unseen part;

    For the Gods see everywhere.


Let us do our work as well,

    Both the unseen and the seen;

Make the house, where Gods may dwell

    Beautiful, entire, and clean.


Else our lives are incomplete,

    Standing in these walls of Time,

Broken stairways, where the feet

    Stumble as they seek to climb.


Build to-day, then, strong and sure,

    With a firm and ample base;

And ascending and secure

    Shall to-morrow find its place.


Thus alone can we attain

    To those turrets, where the eye

Sees the world as one vast plain,

    And one boundless reach of sky.  


This concludes a 3-part series about Why I Started My Own Company. In review, my three primary reasons/desires for incorporating Freedom Focused include: Freedom, Discontent, and a Quest to Build.

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn what an "Old Year's Resolution" is and learn what mine is for 2021.  

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays.      


Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbooks

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Why I Started My Own Company, Part 2: Discontent

Last week I discussed why I decided to start my own company (Freedom Focused) back in 2003—despite there being many other (arguably easier) things I could choose to do with my life and career. This week's post continues this theme.

In addition to my love of and desire for FREEDOM, another reason I chose to become an entrepreneur is because of a growing, albeit healthy, discontent about the state of things in my home country, the United States of America (primarily), and throughout the world.  

Emerson once quipped that, "a healthy discontent is good."

"A healthy discontent is good."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson  


I agree with this nineteenth century American philosopher and poet, and have spent most of my life and career motivated by a healthy discontent I feel about my personal and professional circumstances and/or the way things are all around me throughout my nation and world.

In terms of my own personal and professional life, I have never been satisfied or content in hourly wage or salaried employee positions. Part of my discontent stems from my preference to "call the shots" as opposed to being told what my shots will be. Additionally, I have discovered much discontent in the limitations of my influence and contribution in hourly wage or salaried employee jobs.

This does not mean one's influence and contribution is unimportant in hourly wage or salaried jobs. All honest, productive work is important and has value—no matter what your position, title, and salary is (or is not).

As the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, so eloquently put it more than 150 years ago:

Nothing useless is, or low;
   Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
   Strengthens and supports the rest.

In other words, every job is important, and every employee performs vital functions that contribute to, maintain, and sustain an organization. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with working in a regular, salaried position. Such positions are important—even vital—to accomplishing the necessary work that keeps our schools, businesses, organizations, communities, and nations running effectively and smoothly.

Many (and perhaps even most) people would actually prefer to be a salaried employee as opposed to a leader, manager, or entrepreneur. The former route is certainly a more certain, predictable, and (arguably) less stressful route than the latter.     

My personal discontent with hourly wage or salaried positions stems from the limitations that exist in such jobs that do not exist in entrepreneurial positions. As I explained last week, being an entrepreneur expands my personal and professional FREEDOM by giving me more leverage over the visioning, long-term strategic planning, and "shot calling" aspect of my work projects and day-to-day activities and scheduling.

However, as I also explained last week, there are always two sides to every stick or coin (situation) in life. The freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur often comes at a high price—a price that salaried positions typically do not demand. For example, I've been working to build Freedom Focused for 17 years, yet, after investing tens of thousands of hours in the project, I am still not making the equivalent of an average hourly or salaried wage.

But that—and a whole lot more—will come in time.

          That's the tradeoff.  

Similarly, higher paying salaried positions (e.g. doctors, lawyers, engineers, and leaders and managers in all organizations) come with a higher price than lower paying salaried positions. This price must be paid in both up-front educational investments and on-the-job commitments of extra time and effort not required by others down the hierarchical chain-of-command.

The point to all this is that while we do not always earn everything we get in life, we do—in the long-run—ultimately reap what we sow, both personally and professionally. Those who are willing to sow longer, work harder, and endure more diligently, end up reaping the rewards of those extra investments of time and effort. That is why success is something that should be admired, not denigrated, as it sometimes is in our often confused, troubled, bitter, and envy-ridden postmodern world.     

In terms of the discontent I feel more broadly about my nation and world, I must confess that I often find myself embarrassed to be human because of the extraordinary pettiness, deceit, puerility, obscenity, and mediocrity that is so pervasive throughout our postmodern culture.

It can, quite frankly, be nauseating at times.  

This is not to say that a healthy measure of the opposite—honor, integrity, maturity, decency, and excellence—doesn't also exist.

It does!

However, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that collectively speaking, the human race is presently performing far below its capacity and potential.

At Freedom Focused, our long-term vision is to make a significant qualitative and quantitative impact on this problem, which seems to only get worse with the passage of time. How do we aim to accomplish this grand and audacious vision? The answer is: through education in, and application of, true principles of long-term growth, success, happiness, and inner peace.  

While we certainly have our work cut out for us, there is no doubt in my mind that the potential for unprecedented growth and progress already exists. It just needs to be more deeply tapped into and more fully magnified. If you don't believe me, just wait 20 years and see what the world looks like in 2040. If you think a lot has changed (improved) since the year 2000, just... you... wait!

The world is about to make a quantum leap the likes of which it has never experienced before in its formally chronicled history, and innovations and improvements in EDUCATION will be the driving force behind this positive, productive, and ultimately peaceful quantum leap.    

Throughout my life and career, I have found myself continually irritated and frustrated by the actions and habits of others I have worked for and associated with. From being personally disrespected and unfairly treated to having to confront the fallout of broken promises and shoddy work performances. From managing mediocrity and bad attitudes to wending through a maze of leadership failings and other management and performance malpractice and incompetence.

Time and time again I have said to myself: There is a better way to do all of this. Yet often, I lacked the authority (moral or formal) to do much (if anything) about a given situation in other organizations I have worked for.

All too often, my hands were tied, and it was unspeakably frustrating!  

As a result, I've discovered that my greatest power and influence rests in consciously choosing to "be the change" (Gandhi) that I want to see in my family, school, organization, community, nation, and world. Over time, I started to consciously say to myself: I'm gonna treat people differently (better) than I was treated; I'm gonna think, speak, and behave differently (more effectively) than those I've had the chance to observe throughout my life's education and work experiences; and I'm gonna be a more honest, trustworthy, circumspect, courageous, and dedicated self-action leader and leader than others I've observed whose lackluster performances left so much to be desired.  

Over time, I came to the conclusion that there was really only one viable option for me career wise, and that was to start my own company with a single minded purpose: demonstrate and prove by EXAMPLE that there is a smarter, wiser, and better way of doing, being, operating, serving, and contributing—both personally and professionally.        

Our view at Freedom Focused is that human beings everywhere have an existential duty to seek after truth and then strive to do what is right—for our own sakes in addition to the well being of others and the welfare of the planet we all call Home. We believe further that all of us have an interpersonal categorical imperative to treat our fellows with respect, dignity, kindness, compassion, fairness, tolerance, and love. Lastly, we believe that God, Nature, the Universe (pick your preferred term of Deity, "higher power," or metaphysical ordering mechanism) would have us build, create, improve upon, and explore—not tear down, destroy, castigate and regress.

Lastly, we believe that most (if not all) reasonable and rational human beings would agree with us—regardless of one's race, culture, background, religion (or lack thereof), philosophical ideology, or political persuasion. After all, seeking after Goodness and Growth isn't (or at least shouldn't) be a cultural, ideological, or partisan issue; it should be a universal lodestar to which all rational and reasonable people should be able to enthusiastically "hitch their wagon" (Emerson).

Ralph Waldo Emerson's personal office & library in
his home (now a museum) in Concord, Massachusetts.

"Hitch your wagon to a star."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson  


When I see people abdicating their existential duties and personal freedoms on the altar of selfishness, hedonism, narcissism, or nihilism, I am saddened. And when I catch myself falling short, I am maddened. This positive anger—this healthy discontenthas the productive tendency to lead me to grow, improve, and do better in the future. Indeed, my greatest discontent of all comes when I myself fall short of my own potential. Nothing is more painful to me than that. And I am always harder and tougher on myself than I am on others. It's just the way I operate as a self-action leader.

It's the way self-action leaders should operate.

It doesn't really matter who you are or what your present duties are in your life and career. What matters is how you perform them and the kind of person that you are. When it comes to Self-Action Leadership, what matters most is not the remuneration, publicity, prestige, or fame that may (or may not) accompany your actions. What matters is the effort, quality, sincerity, and intent of your actions, habits, service, and contributions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. beautifully elucidated this point when he said:

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth pause to say; Here lives a great sweeper who did his job well."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.        


Self-Action Leadership Requires Action and Effort: Life Lessons Learned from Two Elite Coaches

Coach Urban Meyer
2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Champions
Arlington, Texas, USA
Self-Action Leadership that leads to authentic progress, growth, and achievement requires action and effort over time. There is no other way. You can't be lazy and expect to earn meaningful results in your life or career.  

Urban Meyer is one of the greatest coaches in college football history. He won three (3) National Championships during his coaching career; two at The University of Florida (2006, 2008) and one at The Ohio State University (2014).

During his time at Ohio State, Meyer displayed a quote from basketball legend Kobe Bryant in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center (Buckeyes Football Headquarters). 

Meyer loved Bryant's quote because he related to it so strongly himself and wanted his athletes to learn from it as well.

Said Bryant:

"I can't relate to lazy people. We don't speak the same language.

I don't understand you. I don't want to understand you."

— Kobe Bryant


I relate pretty strongly to both Bryant and Meyer in this regard. The negative natural consequences of laziness are stark, profound, and foreboding. Moreover, laziness does not lead to freedom; it leads to bondage.  

I do not respect laziness. I do not want to be associated with it, nor do I desire to be anywhere near those who choose aimless laziness over productive exertion in their lives. Few things lead more quickly to personal and professional bondage than LAZINESS. Nevertheless, it is a tendency that most of us have, including myself. We must therefore fight against it continually lest it swallow us up in the throes of underachievement and the morass of mediocrity.  

It is important to note here that not all people who appear lazy actually are lazy. Physical handicaps, mental illness, and a variety of other legitimate reasons may exist for someone's inability to move, act, or work as quickly, efficiently, effectively, or as hard as someone else. As Corollary 1.2 in the SAL Theory makes clear, "situational exigencies arise that necessitate legitimate exceptions" to the rule. Moreover, life isn't primarily meant to be a competition with other people. It is primarily meant to be a competition with yourself, with an eye ever focused on personal improvement and growth.  

For a complete listing of the Laws and Corollaries in the SAL Theory, see Self-Action Leadership, Volume I, available for purchase by clicking HERE.      

Consequently, self-action leaders should avoid judging other people along a spectrum of laziness—unless they are required to as part of being in a close personal or professional relationship with another person. The role of a self-action leader is not to criticize, judge, or lecture. The role of a self-action leader is to be an EXAMPLE—to "be the change" one would like to see in the world. Instead of judging others, we as self-action leaders should focus on our own behavior. Then, when we catch ourselves being legitimately lazy, we can make proper course corrections as the leader of our own life. 

Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest professional American football coach in history. Throughout his legendary career—which is still in progress—his teams have been to an astounding 12 Super Bowls, eight (8) of which his team won. No other coach in history comes even close to Belichick's NFL Playoff achievements.  

What is his secret? What is his magical formula for success? 

Perhaps surprisingly, Belichick's formula is quite simple. In the New England Patriots training facilities hangs a sign.

It reads simply:

"Do Your Job"


Click HERE to see images of the New England Patriots famous Motto.  

For Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots the secret to success is simple, basic, and straight forward. Yet, it is not easy. If it were easy, then everyone would do it! 

The "Freedom Focused Way"

At Freedom Focused, we believe in the wisdom of Belichick's simple—albeit not always easy—motto and mantra for success. We do not expect everyone to have the same personality, education, talents, or skill-set. But we do require that ALL new hires come highly qualified, highly motivated, and prepared to compete against other highly qualified candidates who seek the same positions. We also expect that all agents hired be well suited to his or her position and perform his or her function at an elite level. Lastly, we expect them to do so consistently and persistently with an eye ever aimed at education, growth, improvement, and hierarchical advancement (if desired).

In short, and in summation, Freedom Focused is—and always will be—an authentic MERITOCRACY, where people from all races and backgrounds can come and compete fairly at the highest levels for exciting personal and professional opportunities that make a positive and productive difference in the lives of other people.  

After an agent is hired at Freedom Focused, the same stirringly high standards that accompany the hiring process continues ever after into one's future period of employment.  

If you are a RECEPTIONIST or CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE at Freedom Focused, you are expected to be cheerful, friendly, courteous, respectful, resilient, and helpful EVERY TIME you pick up the phone or greet a customer. If you aren't willing to be all of these things all of the time (at your station), there is no need to apply for a receptionist or customer service representative position at Freedom Focused. And if you choose lower standards after being hired, you will eventually lose your job on a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.     

If you are a TRAINER at Freedom Focused, you are expected to be knowledgable, skilled, experienced, prepared, organized, interesting, flexible, audience-focused, and punctual EVERY TIME you conduct a seminar or training course. If you aren't willing to be all of these things all of the time (when training), there is no need to apply for a trainer position at Freedom Focused. And if you choose lower standards after being hired, you will eventually lose your job on a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.     

If you are a LEADER or MANAGER at Freedom Focused, you are expected to be knowledgable, organized, visionary, creative, respectful of authority, inclusive of subordinates, and a stellar example of Self-Action Leadership yourself EVERY DAY you come to work. If you aren't willing to be all of these things all of the time (while at work), there is no need to apply for a leadership or managerial position at Freedom Focused. And if you choose lower standards after being hired, you will eventually lose your job on a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.   

If you are a CUSTODIAN or other blue-collar LABORER at Freedom Focused, you are expected to be punctual, efficient, effective, respectful of authority, and exhibit perfectionistic qualities in your work performance EVERY DAY you come to work. In other words, you better be ready—just like MLK advised—to polish floors and scrub toilets like Shakespeare wrote poetry or Mozart composed music. If you aren't willing to be all of these things all of the time (while at work), there is no need to apply for a custodial or other blue-collar labor job at Freedom Focused. And if you choose lower standards after being hired, you will eventually lose your job on a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.

What's "in it" for the Employee?

What incentives are there for those fortunate enough to be employed by Freedom Focused? There are many! First and foremost, you'll get paid more than you would at most other companies. How do we afford to do this? Two ways. First, by capping executive pay. Even I—the CEO—will never make more than 13 times the median employee's salary. Executives at some large corporations make 200-300 times as much as the median salary of their employees.

That's insanely unnecessary and avaricious!  

At Freedom Focused, we eschew the executive greed that so sickeningly saturates most of Corporate America. Instead of a few people getting unnecessarily wealthy at the top, we like to invest in those lower down the hierarchical "totem pole" whose hard work makes the success of our executives possible! Second, instead of an individual author getting rich from book royalties (e.g. sales of SAL textbooks), it all goes back into the company, allowing us to further invest in our customers, employees, products, and services.   

In addition to the pay and other tangible perks, working at Freedom Focused provides an agent with the opportunity to associate with and be mentored by elite leaders, managers, trainers, authors, and workers who are representative of the finest individuals in the world—elite performers—in their respective fields. In short, a career at Freedom Focused provides an individual with an opportunity to become elite by associating with other world-class supervisors and colleagues.

Most importantly (and certainly most rewardingly in the long run) Freedom Focused provides an individual with the chance to get to powerfully influence and productively impact the lives of other human beings. Deep down, everyone hopes that their work will make a meaningful difference in the lives of other people. Freedom Focused provides this opportunity in unique, significant, and unprecedented ways.     

R&R&R is almost as important as work.

The Importance of Balance

Let's return briefly to our discussion about laziness. 

It is important to note that focused activities dedicated to rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation (R&R&R) should not be confused with lazy behavior.

R&R&R is actually one of the most important and productive activities we can engage in. As human beings, we are not automatons or robots. We must therefore proactively balance our Production (P) with our Production Capacity (PC); otherwise, we will burn out.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey referred to this principle as the "P/PC Balance." But he did not stop there. He went a step further to dedicate an entire HABIT to the concept in his famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Habit 6: Sharpen the Saw). This underscores the importance of R&R&R, and its legitimate place as a form of balanced, proactive behavior.

For me, naps are a source of enormous
refreshment and energy renewal.
I know the truth of this principle from personal experience. That is why I sometimes tell people that my secret to writing my 1,149-page doctoral dissertation was "taking naps"!

True story!

Over time, I have discovered that some of my most productive writing time occurs in the hours immediately following a mid-day or mid-afternoon nap! And I'm not a big fan of 10-15 minute "cat naps." I prefer, when possible, to sleep for 45-minutes or more. Winston Churchill was the same way. Most people don't know it, but naps are (in part) what fueled that great Prime Minister of Great Britain to victory in the single most epic struggle against evil the world has ever known!

I doubt that anyone who knows me would view me as "Lazy." Yet, I take more naps than almost anyone I've ever met who is not a retired senior citizen. So remember, legitimate R&R&R does not equal laziness, although there can be a fine line that separates the two. As self-action leaders, our job is to do our best to avoid laziness and pursue proactive and productive exertion in a wise, strategic, and balanced manner.

Other Sources of My Discontent

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of
the way things are going, and I'm dedicating
my life and career to doing something about it.
In addition to my aversion to laziness, I similarly struggle when I see or hear of other, related, negative attitudes, behaviors, and habits I see all around me throughout the United States and World. From dishonesty and disingenuousness to mediocrity and corner cutting; from imprecision and inaccuracies to unfairness and unrighteous dominion; from hypocrisy and hate to vulgarity, vice, and unbridled concupiscence. I don't like any of these behaviors and habits, all of which are harmful to individuals, groups, and organizations.

I am sick-and-tired of being ashamed of and embarrassed by the speech and behavior of people in the news, people in organizations I have worked in, and in the broader community as well. I am sick-and-tired of hearing, reading about, and seeing my fellow humans perform far below their capacity and potential.  

As human beings in the twenty-first century, we are capable of so much more. Indeed, we have so much more potential than we are currently exhibiting in our lives, relationships, and careers—speaking collectively and not individually.

We need to do better.
 
          We can do better. 

                    We must do better!

                              We will do better.   

I have a low patience threshold with underperformance of any kind, although I tend to be more patient with others than I am with myself—and I think that's the way it should be when you are a leader—or self-action leader. Leaders should LEAD, and leadership begins, continues, and ends with a leader's PERSONAL EXAMPLE. Despite the stirringly high standards I have for my business associates and employees, I will always have even higher standards for myself

And that is exactly as it should be.   

As I look out into my nation, I see many extraordinary people, things, and developments. But I also see a lot of speech, behavior, and other things that are, quite frankly, inappropriate, embarrassing, and even shameful.

What We Plan to Do about it  

This disheartening state of American cultural disarray and societal decay has instilled within me a deep and abiding desire to dedicate my life and career to making a positive difference and influencing meaningful change. And I firmly believe the best way to influence any kind of change is not to lecture others on what they ought to be doing, but rather to follow Gandhi's advice and BE THE CHANGE I WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

— Gandhi

In other words, it all begins with ME. And self-observation, self-monitoring, and SELF-CHANGE are the essence of Self-Action Leadership.  

I have no right to teach, coach, mentor, or lead anyone else on what to think, say, or do until I have amply demonstrated that I am a worthy example myself. I must not only practice what I preach, I must be what I teach.

I must be the change I wish to see in others.  

Self-Action Leaders are existential
Kings & Queens in embryo
I believe in and love BEAUTY and QUALITY. I believe in and love HONESTY, INTEGRITY, and FIDELITY. I believe in and love hard work, dedication, and personal sacrifice. I believe in and love courtesy, kindness, respect, courage, consistence, persistence, determination, and excellence. And I believe in and love endurance, vision, growth, accomplishment, maturity, and lasting success.

Please don't get the wrong idea... I am far from perfect myself. Indeed, I struggle with my own weaknesses and shortcomings every single day!

But I believe it is noble to aim for IDEALS, however imperfectly. I also believe that as human beings, each of us possesses a spark of royalty within. In other words, on an existential spectrum spanning animals on the far left and kings and queens on the far right, we ought to continually strive towards the side of royalty.

I believe that ALL human beings are capable of extraordinary things. But sadly, far too many people squander their potential on a whole host of negative activities, habits, and pursuits when they could be making something truly wonderful of their lives and relationships—and influencing others to do the same. 

SAL holds the key to a whole new future
for America and the World
At Freedom Focused, we want to influence positive reversals in these troubling trends.

When I retire approximately twenty years from now—around the year 2040—I want my nation (and the world) to be a significantly better, cleaner, safer, and more beautiful and prosperous place than it is today, in 2020. And I will not rest until I have done my level best to accomplish this objective, and to help as many people as possible along the way. 

Freedom Focused exists to make the world a better place in every conceivable way we can. How do we accomplish this grand and never-ending objective? By educating people in the art and science of human freedom, personal progress, and existential growth. And just as importantly, we do it by striving our best to model ourselves what we would like to see in others. Our aim is to Be the Change we wish to See in the World.  

Freedom Focused exists to fill people's minds with faith rather than fear so they can recognize what is possible when true principles and productive practices are deeply ingrained and consistently applied over time. It was built to assist men and women, boys and girls to build beautiful, prosperous, rewarding, happy, and peaceful lives and careers atop foundation stones that will hold firm through every storm that life can possibly throw at them. And it will endure to ensure that America—and the World's—best days are always ahead of us, never behind us.  

It won't be easy.

Authentic and lasting growth, progress, and achievement never is. But it will be everlastingly worth it. The rewards will be significant and unprecedented. 

So...

What are YOU waiting for?

Get started today by buying the SAL Textbooks, starting the SAL Master Challenge, and getting to work!
                    

Tune in NEXT Wednesday for Part 3 of Why I Started My Own Company.  

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Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused.

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