Monday, January 19, 2015

My Story

In later chapters of this book, I attempt to teach SAL in part by sharing intricate details of my experiences with OCD, my misadventures with romance, and the ups and downs of my unorthodox career path. Before getting on to these chapters, I wish to preface them by providing a brief, autobiographical sketch my life’s story. This information serves as an introductory backdrop to other, more detailed stories to come, whereby I will vividly illustrate the principles of the SAL theory and model as I myself have attempted to live them.

My life, as with anyone’s life, is a story of the struggles to discipline one's response to life’s many problems, pains, perplexities, and failures. It is also a story of my growing success in meeting these challenges. This journey began as a toddler, as the following excerpt from my father’s journal illustrates:
Fri. July 10, 1981

Cute things happened this afternoon. I took Jordan with me to the bank to make an apartment deposit. Left him in the car while I went in. When I came out, he had opened the door of the car, leaned out, pulled down his britches and shorts and was proceeding to make a puddle on the asphalt. The last time he was with me at the Exxon Station I got a little upset with him for going on the seat. He did it right this time. Sure was cute. He was right proud of himself.

I was born on August 21, 1979 in Monticello, Utah—a small, rural community of about 2,000 people in the remote Four Corners area of the Western United States. I am the sixth of seven children and the youngest of five boys. My father was a high school teacher and rural renaissance man/entrepreneur. My mother was a homemaker and a successful saleswoman of a variety of products, including Avon. My family was loving and close-knit, but we had our share of parental differences and sibling squabbles. After most of my siblings had left home, my parents’ relationship deteriorated, leading to serious marital troubles and their divorce after 37 years.

From an early age, I was taught to value faith, family, community, country, and self-reliance. My father and older brothers taught me by example to work hard. I got my first paying job at age five. I earned $40 for a summers’ worth of work helping my dad and brothers build a cabin on Dad’s land. I was free to spend $20 as I wished. The other $20 went into my church mission fund. My position/title that summer was, "the fetch-it," my job being to fetch tools for my dad and brothers. 

At age seven, my family moved to Mesa, Arizona. This move to a more populated area marked a significant life transition for me. I traded in my country boy jeans’n’boots for suburban shorts and sneakers. In short, I became a “city boy." This move signaled the formal beginning of my Self-Action Leadership journey, which was initiated by my attendance at one of my Uncle Hryum’s Franklin Institute time management seminars at age seven or eight. It seems as though this seminar, and events like it, were providentially placed in my young life, as they planted important seeds that would eventually grow into my chosen career—and the writing of this book.
Following my seventh-grade year, my family moved back to Monticello. I attended Monticello High School from grades 8-11. During the summer months, I had the opportunity to work at a variety of blue-collar jobs involving grounds keeping, construction, farming, and ranching. These jobs taught me hard work, as well as how to deal with physical pain and discomfort. They also taught me the satisfaction that came from a job well done. While in high school, my main chore was to chop, stack, and replenish our wood supply for our home’s wood-burning stove. I loved my job as the family fire builder and maintenance man, and was usually reliable in attending to my chores.

In 1995, I began a two-year stint as a newspaper correspondent for the Blue Mountain Panorama, a small-town weekly serving Blanding and Monticello, Utah; my professional writing career had begun. At this same time, my academic performance largely floundered as a result of OCD, struggles with math and science, poor study habits, and a preference for athletics over academics.

I began experiencing OCD symptoms at age 10. They became increasingly severe at age 12. Unfortunately, I was not clinically diagnosed until I was 17. These intervening 4-5 years were, in many ways, hellish.

From ages 8-18, I was involved in scouting, first as a Cub Scout, and later as a Boy Scout. At age 18, I received my Eagle Scout Award. Scouting taught and reinforced many important SAL lessons I was learning at home and school, and further instilled within me the importance of consciously developing character traits such as honesty, integrity, duty, discipline, consistency, formality, obedience to authority, a strong work ethic, patriotism, and a positive attitude.

In 1997, following my junior year in high school, I moved to Spokane, Washington to live with my oldest brother and his wife for my senior year. This move was motivated by my pursuit of an athletic opportunity in a larger school and classification.


It also paved the way for me to better deal with my OCD by vacating an increasingly negative home experience that had soured in recent years due to my parent’s deteriorating relationship. I graduated from Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington in 1998. Following high school, I served a voluntary, two-year mission for my Church in Alberta, Canada.

In 2001, I began college at Brigham Young University as a visiting student for the spring and summer terms. BYU had rejected my application as a regular, full-time student due to poor grades and an average ACT score, so I enrolled at Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University) during fall and winter semesters. As a college student, I was never one to “let school get in the way of my education.”[1] I was not a partier (I don’t even drink alcohol), but I did seek out a variety of educational opportunities involving athletics, theatre, film, part-time work, babysitting for—and spending time with—family members, dating, and attending speeches and presentations on campus and throughout the community.
In May 2003, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in English after going to school year-round for 27 consecutive months. The day after completing my degree, I fulfilled a personal dream to live in the American South. Enamored by Civil War history, Southern hospitality, warmer climates – including humidity--and various other romantic notions, I went forth to seek my fortunes in Atlanta, Georgia.

I spent six months in Georgia on my first go-round. I lived with my cousins and worked for them part-time in their software business. I also got a job as a retail salesman in a FranklinCovey store at a mall for about four months. In addition, I taught my first seminar on personal leadership at Lassiter High School in Marietta--a pro bono gig.
In early 2004, I returned to Utah and got a job as an Assistant to the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Leadership at my Alma Mater. During this time I began proactively developing my seminar business, and taught over 60 pro bono gigs for middle, high school, and college aged audiences.



In 2005, I founded my company—Freedom Focused, LLC—and became a full-time entrepreneur. In December of that year, I decided to move back to Georgia where I continued building my business in a bigger market. In 2006, I published my first book: I Am Sovereign: The Power of Personal Leadership--a self-leadership guide for teenagers. Although I made some encouraging progress, my leap of faith did not pan out as I had hoped. Out of money and deeply in debt, I spent 16 months doing whatever work I could find to make ends meet. Odd jobs I picked up included childcare, substitute teaching, grounds keeping, temp work, and drying cars for a car washing business. With a little help from family members and my Church, I managed to eat and keep a roof over my head while narrowly skirting bankruptcy and barely retaining possession of my car.

In 2006, I met Lina Tucker, my wife-to-be. We dated for about a year and then got engaged. We were married in 2008. I began facilitating professional seminars around the country in 2007. Lina graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in 2009 with a Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

Shortly after her graduation, we moved to Houston, Texas, where Lina started work with a Fortune 100 Company in the energy industry. With the tanking economy, my contract training work dried up. To adjust, I pursued and acquired a position teaching 9th Grade English at Cypress-Ridge High School in Houston. In June 2009, I started a doctoral program in Education at Fielding Graduate University--a distance education program out of Santa Barbara, CA.

During my year at Cy-Ridge, my wife received a work transfer to St. John’s, Newfoundland Canada. In 2010, we relocated to St. John’s for two years during which time I worked on my doctoral degree and continued contract-training work in Canada.

In the spring of 2012, we returned to Houston. In the fall of 2012, I published my second book: Psalms of Life: A Poetry Collection.
In March 2013, I finished my Doctorate in education, we bought our our first house, and Lina gave birth to our first child—a delightful baby boy. In March 2015, Lina gave birth to our second child—a beautiful baby girl.

I am now 35 years old. I have moved 41 times in my life. These moves have taken me to 38 different addresses in five States and two Provinces of Canada spanning five different time zones. I have attended ten different schools. I have had 37 different positions of employment (many temporary) spanning a dozen different industries. Five of these positions were entrepreneurial-based; 31 were wage-earning positions, all of which added texture and richness to my overall education and life experiences as I strove to pursue my ultimate goal to become an international thought leader with expertise in teaching, writing, and corporate organization and leadership.

Like most people, my life has been a tale of triumph and trial, sorrow and success, anticipation, achievement, and even ecstasy mixed together with a full measure of agony, anxiety, and failure. Despite the many, deep trials I have faced, I consider my life to have been richly blessed. I was born of goodly parents into a loving family that resided in unusually peaceful parts of the world. While most of my life was not marked by financial abundance, I consider myself to be exceedingly rich in relationships, education, opportunities, memories, conscience, and an intra-personal will to self-lead. While the difficulties of OCD and other life challenges have tested me to my core, the bulwark of these riches has provided an indomitable defense that has held strong, allowing my trials to refine my skills and expand my influence.

AUTOETHNOGRAPHY AS RESEARCH METHOD


The term, "Autoethnography" is used by academics to refer to the systematic study and research of one's own life. The field of autoethnography has derived from ethnography—the study of individual groups of people—which in turn evolved out of the field of anthropology (the study of human cultures). 

In my doctoral dissertation, I conducted an autoethnographic research study whereby I carefully analyzed my life’s journey to see what I might learn about self-leadership and action research. My goal was to synthesize the data in order to create an original theory and model of self-leadership that might benefit others. The result is the SAL theory & model presented in this book.

I began collecting data for this expansive autoethnographic research project in 1987 as a young diarist over two decades before I began my doctoral work. I can, in large measure, thank my Dad for my journaling predilections. Dad began writing in a daily diary while in high school. He persisted in his journaling habit with an unusual devotion for decades thereafter. In the late 1980s, when I was just a boy, he had his journals copied and bound in matching red covers. On the spine he had his name and the year(s) emblazoned in gold lettering. These dozen or so 8” x 11” volumes, along with his growing number of Franklin Day Planner binders (where he penned his journals beginning in 1983) made an attractive addition to his office library. I received my first Franklin Day Planner in 1987 as an 8-year old second grader (see image below).

A lover of the written word from before I could even read, I was a regular patron of Dad’s home library, and quickly noticed his impressive-looking, professionally bound journals. He generously granted me permission to read them, and I forthwith began to explore his life through the pages of his voluminous diaries. These perusals provided fascinating journeys into the past where I came to know, love, and respect my father on a level that would have been impossible without his written records.
I keep many different kinds of journals, records, and lists. One of them I call my Emerson Journal, in honor of Ralph Waldo Emerson--an avid journaler and one of my literary and philosophical mentors. In my Emerson Journals, I record poetical thoughts as well as musings on philosophy, theology, religion, and Self-Action Leadership. Beginning in 2001, whenever a meaningful thought would enter my mind, I strove to pen it in my Emerson Journal.

I was amazed at the regularity of my receipt of new thoughts once I made a serious commitment to record them. Sometimes a thought would arrive late at night after I had already retired for bed, and I would feel compelled to get myself out of bed, turn on the light, grab a pen, and jot the information down. Other times inspiration would hit me while I was driving, and I’d likewise feel prompted to pull my car to the side of the road, extract my Little Black Book and pen from my pocket, and properly record whatever inspiration I had received before continuing my drive. I began carrying my pen and notebook around with me religiously, not knowing when the next gem of thought would enter my brain. Between 2002-2006, my mind was particularly flooded with thoughts, ideas, and inspiration, and my Emerson Journals grew to fill 22 “little black books” (4.5 x 3.25 inch, 160 pages).

This probably sounds as much like OCD as it does inspiration, and invariably, both forces were regular contributors to this project. I thank God for the inspiration because I believe He is the Source of it. And I thank certain OCD-related practices, which, when properly managed and directed have proven enormously helpful in the completion of any sizable project I have undertaken. In truth, I probably could not have developed the SAL theory or model, much less written this book, without some of my OCD-influenced intensity and other personal proclivities. There is always a silver lining to every life challenge. I hope this book helps you discover your own life's “silver linings,” for they are there—many and varied—if you are willing to search them out.

And now, without further ado or introduction, let's move on to Chapter 4, where you will begin your formal study of the Self-Action Leadership theory.

Next Blog Post ~ Tuesday, January 20, 2015 ~ Chapter 4: Your World


[1] A favorite saying of my mother and maternal grandfather, also attributed to Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli.

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