Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Movies & Life Leadership

Movies—and a variety of other art forms—are powerful platforms for promoting (or discouraging) a myriad of principles, beliefs, habits, lifestyles, etc. In today's blog post, I discuss THREE (3) of my favorite movies, and the ways in which they have inspired me toward higher levels of Self-Action Leadership and life management.
Nearly 20 years ago, I worked with a leader and supervisor who was well aware of the difficulties I faced with OCD. In fact, he even referred me to a counselor who proved very helpful during the time I served under his tutelage. When our working relationship came to an end, this man said something very interesting to me that I'll never forget. 

He said: "You know, Jordan, OCD hasn't been all bad for you."

I knew instantly what he was talking about. While my OCD symptoms caused me a great deal of anxiety, stress, grief, and social unease (for me and others), they also contributed to my capacity for focus, hard work, achieving targeted objectives, and remaining faithfully dedicated to whatever I set out to do. My Supervisor greatly appreciated the positive "symptoms" of my OCD-oriented personality because it helped him accomplish his goals as well.   

Fortunately, I have come a long way when it comes to managing my symptoms of OCD and its accompanying comorbid depression. In fact, after 23 years of personal hard work combined with the help of counselors, psychiatrists, family members, and others, I would estimate that I only suffer about 10% of the negative symptoms I had to endure 20 years ago, and my life is infinitely better as a result! Even better, the habits I developed for focus, hard work, goal setting, and devotion to duty have remained with me, and are sharper and more balanced than ever before.  

Click HERE to read about my past struggles with OCD, and how I successfully confronted them.  
Click HERE to read about my past struggles with OCD's comorbid little brother, DEPRESSION.
Click HERE to read about Self-Action Leadership as it relates to MENTAL HEALTH.

So... what does this have to do with my THREE (3) favorite movies? Good question!

One of my positive "obsessions" in life is a productive fixation I have on drawing out "life lessons" and "character development strategies" from virtually everything I see or experience. 

This includes MOVIES!

As such, it probably won't surprise you that my THREE (3) favorite movies all involve "life lessons" and "character development strategies." I love movies that fill my mind with ideas on how I can be a better and more capable and caring person. I adore cinema that captures historical periods worth studying. And I savor shows that inspire thoughts, words, and deeds that contribute meaningfully to other people and make the world a better place.  

Interestingly enough, my THREE (3) favorite movies are all directed by the same director—Kevin Reynolds. I do not personally know Kevin. Nor do I know anything about his upbringing or personal history. But I greatly admire three of his greatest and most successful film projects, as follows: 

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves  (1990)

The Count of Monte Cristo  (2002)

Risen  (2016)

I saw the first of these three films—Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves—when I was just 11 years old and in fifth grade. Never before (or since) has a single film had more of an impact on me and my life. 

In the immediate aftermath, the film's influence was age appropriate, meaning it wasn't long before I was climbing up into the palo verde tree in our front yard in Mesa, Arizona, cutting limbs to make homemade bows, and fashioning makeshift arrows out of broken tent poles I found in our garage. Without going into a lot of unnecessary detail, this film inspired a lifelong love of archery that continues to this day. And you won't be surprised to hear that I do not shoot a compound (or recurve) bow; I shoot a longbow—like Robin Hood! My bow and quiver full of arrows—many of which are made of wood (rather than aluminum or carbon) and have traditional, feather fletchings—rest in the closet of my office where I am currently composing this article. 

As a teenager, this film influenced me in a different way. As a 14-year old, I dedicated my 8th grade science project to measuring the potential and kinetic energy of an arrow's flight. Later on, at age 18, I directed 17 of my friends in planning a Robin-Hood themed group date on land my Dad owned. I did it all to impress one girl in particular. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) she wasn't as impressed as I'd hoped she might be. But boy did my friends and I have FUN planning and executing that DATE!  
(Pictured above is "Robin Hood" (JJ) in his "Lincoln Green" the night of the Robin Hood Date: August 1, 1998)

It began with my pal Andy Taylor (Will Scarlet) and I (Robin Hood) riding real horses around our small town of Monticello, Utah, USA to deliver invitations to the girls (attached to arrows). It later commenced with a treasure hunt and live theatrical production that involved everything from sword fighting, flaming arrows, and a bonfire, to the dramatic pairing up of the 18 couples, a turkey feast, and an outdoor dance in the woods. Everyone had a wonderful time and it was a most memorable experience for me personally. The feelings I experienced that night never left me, and have continued to influence my life ever since. 

(Pictured above is "Will Scarlet" (AT) in his scarlet garb delivering invitations on horseback with "Robin Hood" (JJ) a week or so before the big date)

As an adult, I spend less time pretending to actually be Robin Hood than I did when I was 11 or 18. However, many of the lessons I learned from that film still reverberate powerfully and meaningfully in my mind, heart, and soul. In fact, you might say that in many ways I still strive to model a Robin Hood character as a leader and entrepreneur.  

You have probably experienced seeing yourself in a movie character. I have always seen myself in Kevin Costner's portrayal of Robin Hood back in 1990. It didn't matter to me that Costner didn't use a British accent or that his performance may have been panned by some critics. After all, Theodore Roosevelt rightly taught that it is not the critic who counts; it is the person who is actually in the arena who counts. Thus, I don't care much about what movie critics have to say. I make my own judgments on a show's value. 

The screenplay of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was written by Pen Densham and John Watson. I don't know Pen or John, nor am I familiar with what the critics had to say about their work. But in my opinion, it was masterful—almost perfect. Perhaps this is because my favorite lines from the script are often pregnant with life lessons and other character development gold, such as:

"There are no perfect men in this world; only perfect intentions."

Azeem to Robin                 Click HERE to watch a clip of this SCENE.  

"One man defending his home is worth more than ten hired soldiers."     

Robin Hood to his Merry Men

"Do you want to be free?  Then we must stop fighting amongst ourselves and face the fact that the price for it may be dear!"     

Robin Hood to his Merry Men

"Nobility is not a birthright; it is determined by one's actions."     

— Robin to Marian

"I would die for you."     

Robin to Marian

Of the many character attributes highlighted in the film—such as: loyalty, patriotism, leadership, love, devotion, service, friendship, hard work, discipline, and daring—it is perhaps its exhibition of COURAGE that sticks out most prominently. I have always admired the attribute of courage—and people who act courageously in their lives and careers. 

Click HERE to watch a MOVIE CLIP of Robin Hood demonstrating "English Courage"

Tune in next Wednesday, October 7th, to learn why Dr. JJ LOVES The Count of Monte Cristo and the life lessons it teaches.

Click HERE to learn more about our Vision and Mission at Freedom Focused.

Click HERE to buy a copy of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Life Lessons Learned from Dr. Seuss


Few children's authors or illustrators can match Theodore Geisel's (Dr. Suess's) ability to obliquely teach life lessons. His unique pedagogical approach is rarely explicit and never didactic or preachy. Despite this fact, he still manages to compellingly convey storehouses of wisdom to young (and not-so-young) minds with iconic creativity and remarkable cogency.

A few days ago, I read a Dr. Seuss story to my daughter with which I was unfamiliar. It was called Horton Hatches the Egg.

On the surface, this story seemed rather silly and one-dimensional compared to other Suess classics I have come to adore for the richness of their character education and life lessons. You know, like O The Places You'll Go, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, the latter of which possess an unmistakable Christian redemption motif in my view.

I felt very differently after reading the story of Horton to my daughter, Kara, and was able to add yet another Seuss Classic to my growing list of animated character education treatises.

Horton Hatches the Egg is the story of an elephant named Horton who resumes the responsibility of sitting on (protecting) the egg (offspring) of a lazy and irresponsible bird named Mayzie. Tired of the patience and hard work required by her task, lazy Mayzie abdicates her duty and heads off to Palm Beach where she can escape her responsibilities and relax and goof off for a while. 

Now I've been to Palm Beach a number of times in my life, so I get the draw for Mayzie. The problem is, of course, that she has "Promises to Keep" back home in her nest, which is located in a much less hospitable climate—as one discovers later on in the story. Seeking a path of least resistance without completely abdicating her duty, Mayzie recruits Horton to sit on her egg for her.

At first, Horton thinks it rather silly for Mayzie to suggest that he—an elephant—could possibly take her place in such a role. But Mayzie is insistent and Horton is both willing and creative, so a method is concocted for Horton to accomplish his task without smashing Mayzie's egg.

Then, Horton begins to sit. And he sits, and he sits, and he sits, sits, sits, sits! He sits through a thunder storm. He sits through the burning heat of the summer and early fall. He sits all day and all night—week-after-week and month-after-month.

In the meantime, Mayzie has become so entranced with the ease and pleasures of Palm Beach that she forgets about her egg and decides to stay for good. Horton, on the other hand, keeps to his duty. Day-after-day through the autumn, winter, and spring. Every time he starts to feel tired, bored, frustrated, discouraged, anxious, depressed, or cold (the winter brings much snow) Horton says to himself: 

"I meant what I said

And I said what I meant....

An elephant's faithful

One hundred percent!"

After the frigid winter has passed and springtime finally arrives, the reader hopes that Horton will finally find some reprieve from his troubles. But it is not to be as Horton begins to be hounded by the other animals who come to tease, taunt, and mock him for what they see as a ridiculous quest that is clearly a waste of his time and an embarrassment to himself and his kind. 

"They taunted. They teased him.

They yelled, "How absurd!"

"Old Horton the Elephant

Thinks he's a bird!"  

Through it all, Horton remains true to his word and his quest. He was tired. He was lonely. And he was probably very bored. Despite it all, he doggedly demonstrated complete fealty to his task, intention, word, and purpose. Perhaps he was privy to a vision of what could be that others simply could not see. Maybe something deep down inside of him whispered to press-on in pursuit of unseen rewards that awaited him at his journey's end. Whatever his motivations, Horton remains intractable in his pursuit. Come what may, he stands (sits) at his post, true to his duty, and circumspectly fulfills his responsibility.      

Later, Horton is captured by some big-game hunters who, instead of shooting him, decide to transport him across the sea and sell him to a circus. It is an awful journey filled with trials, troubles, humiliations, and seasickness. And if it wasn't enough to have animals jeering at him back in the forest, Horton now has throngs of people gawking and laughing at him in his silly egg-sitting exhibit in the circus. But through it all, Horton never deviates from his intended course. He cares more about what is right (duty and responsibility) than he does about what other people might think or say about him.  

One day, a full year into Horton's egg-sitting commitment, Lazy Mayzie hears the Circus is in town and decides to fly in to see the exhibits herself. In the process, she unexpectedly bumps into Horton! The two are very surprised to see each other. Then, shortly after Mayzie's unexpected arrival, the EGG, which Horton has so faithfully guarded, protected, and loved, starts to crack!  

At that moment, Mayzie becomes more than lazy; she became greedy as well! Growing angry and impatient, Mayzie demands that Horton return what so long ago had once been hers. But to Mayzie's astonishment and dismay, when the egg finally bursts, a little baby elephant emerges in place of a baby bird! And there is no doubt to whom it belongs!

In an instant, Horton the narrow-minded fool becomes Horton the heroic demigod, and the crowd loudly cheers its enthusiastic approval.

"My goodness! My gracious!" they shouted, "MY WORD!

It's something brand new!


          AND it should be, it should be, it SHOULD be like that!

                    Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he sat!"

It is with this exceedingly unexpected conclusion that the story ends, with Horton heading home happy and triumphant—the hero of his own story. What happened to Mayzie, you ask? We don't know; she just sort of fades away into the background and is forgotten while everyone cheers Horton and his new little baby elephant.

On its face, this story is unrealistic and absurd—kind of like most of Dr. Seuss's characters and illustrations. Dig a little deeper, however, and the tale paints a rather precise picture of the way things really are in life in the long-run.   

Paraphrasing The Good Book, there are many people in this world who are "Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of [duty]." Mayzie was that kind of person. Horton was not. He understood the importance of duty and responsibility. As a result, he was richly rewarded for his self-discipline, personal sacrifice, and undying love and devotion to others.  

Each day of our lives we have choices to make. Many of those choices will be between "pleasures" and "responsibilities."  While there is nothing inherently wrong with many pleasurable activities, there is a time, place, and extent to which pleasures ought to be pursued, and whenever they are pursued out of place—or in the place of duty and responsibility—the end result is usually not pretty or happy. In the words of Goethe: "Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least."

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least."

Johann Wolfgang von Geothe

The people I love, respect, and admire the most are the ones who put duty and responsibility before pleasure seeking and other self-serving activities. Such persons are not boorish prudes. Nor are they condescending or self-righteous characters. In fact, they are usually people who enjoy pleasures (properly enjoyed) the most of all! They are the ones who know how to play hard as well as work hard. They understand that the best way to maximize life's pleasures is to first attend to one's duties and responsibilities. By so doing, they actually maximize both their freedom and pleasures (many fold) over the course of their lives. As a result, they live happy, healthy, full lives—just like Horton—lives that are replete with blessings they have rightfully earned as a result of their faithful attendance to their duty.

Those who seek pleasures first and foremost at the expense of duty ironically end up like those sad and sorry souls who, at the end of their lives, come to see that they actually spent most of the their time doing neither what they liked, nor what they ought (Lewis, The Screwtape Letters). Indeed, it is the Hortons of the world who end up not only living rightly, but living well—and pleasurably too!  

In the end, we really do reap more or less precisely what we choose to sow in this life. In the short run, life can be very unfair. But in the long-run, life has a way of sorting things out and righting the score over time. And it has been my ongoing observation—both from my own experiences and from the experiences of others—that those who live positive, productive, conscientious lives in fealty to duty experience the most happiness, success, and inner peace over time. The price required to enjoy such life luxuries may sometimes seem heavy, and I'll be the first to admit that it isn't always easy to pay that price. It was not, after all, easy for Horton to stay faithful to a task so mired in drudgery as to sit on an egg for an entire year! But he earned a BIG reward at the end of his task because he was willing to stick with that task through thick and thin.

The same can be true for each of us.

Just as time is a vital variable in the compounding of interest in one's financial portfolio, time is just as vital a variable in the change, growth, evolution, or achievement of any significant accomplishment in your education, career, relationships, or life. Those who are willing to "put in the time" are the ones who win in the end. Those are aren't, and are continually taking short-cuts and the "easy way out" are the ones who, like lazy Mayzie, fade away into obscurity, loneliness, and eventual despair. That is not a pathway that anyone wants in the end; but for those who choose the path of least resistance—like Mayzie—it will be one's destined lot.  

Don't be like Mayzie.

          Follow Horton's example instead!

Mayzie's pathway was a LOT easier in the short run; but she likely had deep regrets about her decisions later on. Horton, on the other hand, faced a more difficult journey initially, but ended up happy, prosperous, and at peace with himself in the end. As Jerzy Gregorek so succinctly surmised: "Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life."

"Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life."

Jerzy Gregorek

Combatting Jealousy by Maintaining Perspective

Another lesson gleaned from this story can give us added perspective to help us combat jealousy in our lives.

It is easy to look at someone who has a desirable circumstance, possession, opportunity, relationship, or talent and say: "Man that guy is lucky! If only I had been born under the right star like he (or she) was, then I'd have it easy too." There were surely some who saw Horton's good fortune at the end of his story and thought, "Wow, what a lucky Elephant"! But those were the people who knew nothing about Horton's 52-week crucible sitting on Mayzie's egg. Look a little closer at any successful person's story and you will almost always find that there is much more to the situation than meets the eye. 

For Example: there are undoubtedly those who look at me and think, "Man, Jordan's got it made in the shade. He struck it rich when he married Lina and now he gets to avoid the hassles of working at a traditional job while he stays at home with his kids pursuing his dream career on the side." 

I will be the first to admit that I am indeed a very blessed man. Moreover, I am one who believes we do not earn everything we get in our lives. Some of our blessings come by virtue of Divine Grace or serendipity.

But in the long-run, it is also true that we do more or less "reap as we sow." 

It is easy to say I got lucky when I married Lina—a brilliant and beautiful mechanical engineer who graduated from a Top-5 University and works for a Fortune 100 Corporation. But what most people didn't see was the journey I had to take that led to Lina. That journey included over 700 dates with 101 different women over the course of 13 long years. 

Along the way, I was rejected 130 times by 80 different women. The emotional and egotistical trauma of those experiences was inexplicably excruciating—and often lasted for months at a time. Only my most severe symptoms of OCD and depression produced deeper and more poignant pain than the anguish I suffered over my seemingly endless episodes of "despised love" (Shakespeare). I never had a girlfriend in high school or college, and it wasn't because I didn't want one; it was because I couldn't get one where the romantic feelings were mutual!

After college, I took a huge personal, social, and financial risk by moving to the other side of the country (two time zones away from my home state) to start a business. It was there (in Georgia) that I met Lina.

Even after I met Lina, the going was rough. Leading up to our exclusive dating relationship, I experienced such extreme anxiety that I lost 13 pounds—and I was already an unusually lanky and skinny fellow. After we started dating, we waded through two heart-shattering breakups and it took an entire year (think Horton) before she agreed to marry me.

Was it worth it? Of course it was! But anyone who claims I merely got lucky in romance and marriage doesn't know my history. 

A similar story has played out with my career. I will be the first one to admit that I currently find myself in an unusually blessed circumstance as a stay-at-home Dad with the freedom and resources to pursue my dream career as a thinker, teacher, and entrepreneur. But if you had to endure the journey I had to face to get to where I am today, I can guarantee that very few people would want to trade places with me. And that's usually the way it is with anyone you may feel jealousy towards. You may passively envy what someone else has, but if you had to actually pay the price that they paid to be where they are, chances are good you would pass on the opportunity; not because you are a weaker person, but because in reality you are almost certainly better suited for (and would actually prefer) to take a different pathway.   

While my journey has been fascinating, fun, and an adventure of a lifetime—and the right journey for me—it has also been fraught with debt (nigh unto bankruptcy), rejection, ignorings, disappointments, disillusionments, temporary failures, anxiety, and even depression. And if anyone thinks being a full-time stay-at-home Dad to three children under the age of eight is easy, then you are either completely inexperienced or a far better parent than me! 

Bottom Line: If you pick up one side of a stick, you pick up the other side right along with it! And unfortunately, the world is filled with people who want only one side of any given stick—a completely untenable option.  

I have taken BIG risks in my personal and professional life, and while my rewards have been (and will yet be) commensurately sizable, they have not come without a heavy price in time, effort, money, and stress. Moreover, while I may appear very talented and successful on the surface, the reality is that my business—which I've been pursuing now for nearly two decades—is still not off the ground. In at least one narrow and superficial sense, one might quite accurately posture me as a profound failure, speaking professionally and not personally or familially.

Fortunately, I understand that the only true failure is to give up on a worthy goal or quest. So in this sense, I feel unusually successful because of how long it is taking to realize my ultimate objectives. I also feel very successful because I have had many smaller publishing and other "victories" along the way. 

I know that someday Freedom Focused will finally leave the ground. I further believe it will grow into a sizable organization of considerable significance and influence throughout the United States and World in the next two decades. But for now, despite tens of thousands of hours of effort, I am still just a stay-at-home Dad trying to make a name for myself as an author and speaker.

Then again, as a Previous Blog Post made clear, no is a "just-a." In truth, the work I am doing as a stay-at-home Dad is even more important than the work I am pursuing with Freedom Focused. But you get the point I am trying to make. 

I have earned much of whatever I have achieved in my life, and have a long back story to prove it. And while I will be the first to admit that my life has been richly blessed by Grace and Mercy (serendipity) all along the way, anyone with the temerity to claim that I just "Got Lucky" in either my personal or professional life better be prepared to hear an earful back about "the rest of the story."

So... the next time you see someone who appears highly successful or unusually lucky, look a little closer and you will almost certainly discover that there are concrete reasons why that person has what she has, or is what he is. You just never know the extent of the price that someone has had to pay to be who and where they are at any given point in time.

To the wise, LUCK doesn't really exist. What does exist are those things that one rightfully EARNS by virtue of one's own hard work, discipline, diligence, and focus—coupled with the serendipitous grace and mercy of Providence—over time.  

And that's just the way things are!

Click HERE to learn more about our Vision and Mission at Freedom Focused.

Click HERE to buy a copy of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks

Monday, September 21, 2020

Power Tales for a New Generation

When I was a little boy, aged seven or eight, I found a treasure in my maternal grandmother's living room cabinet that would change my life. I discovered a colorful set of 8.5 x 11 inch books (with tapes). They were called: Dramatized Power Tales.  

These books chronicled the basic stories of 15 men, women, or groups from the past who exemplified noble character traits that enabled them to achieve personal greatness by serving others. 

Those chronicled included:

    • Benjamin Franklin
    • George Washington
    • Francis Scott Key
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • Theodore Roosevelt
    • Ronald Reagan
    • J.C. Penney
    • Florence Nightingale
    • Thomas Edison
    • Hellen Keller
    • Jim Thorpe
    • George Washington Carver
    • The Von Trapp Family
    • Walt Disney
    • Bob Hope

These books, and their accompanying tapes, targeted a preteen audience. They were therefore simple and animated. There was no effort made to carefully dissect each person's life in an effort to magnify one's sins or flaws—something so common in our contemporary, postmodern, revisionist history obsessed culture. Instead, the authors' sole goal was to inspire young people with the positive, productive, and creative attributes that made each person legendary in history.  

These simple books succeeded in inspiring me in a BIG way.

In presenting these life stories, each historical figure was assigned a personal virtue, characteristic, or attribute the authors felt best represented the holistic character of each man, woman, or group.

These 14 virtues included:

The Power of

  • Industry                  (Benjamin Franklin)
  • Attitude                  (George Washington)
  • Patriotism               (Francis Scott Key)
  • Trying Again          (Abraham Lincoln)
  • Enthusiasm             (Teddy Roosevelt)
  • Determination         (Ronald Reagan)
  • Integrity                   (J.C. Penney)
  • Courage                   (Florence Nightingale)
  • Creativity                 (Thomas Edison)
  • Overcoming             (Helen Keller)
  • Sportsmanship         (Jim Thorpe)
  • Caring                      (George Washington Carver)
  • Family                      (Von Trapps)
  • Dreaming                 (Walt Disney)
  • Cheerfulness            (Bob Hope)

It is not hyperbole to say these books changed my life and indirectly steered me into the career path I have been pursuing for the past two decades. To this day, as a 41-year old man, I still think about specific quotes from these Power Tales, and other lessons I learned from them as a little boy. 

For example, I'll never forget the story shared of a teenage Abe Lincoln shucking corn for a neighbor (a Mrs. Crawford). As he worked, Abe said to Mrs. Crawford: "You know, Mrs. Crawford, I'm not going to spend all my life shucking corn and splitting rails. I'm going to fit myself for a profession." To which Mrs. Crawford queried: "And what do you want to be now?" Abe replied confidently: "Someday, I'll be President." Laughing, Mrs. Crawford responded: "You'd make a purty president, with all your jokes and tricks, wouldn't you?" But Abe was serious, and responded: "Oh, I'll study and get ready. Then when the time comes, I'll find a way to take it."

I'll always remember the feeling in my heart as I listened to the tape's dramatization of this particular story. In my own childlike mind I thought to myself: "You know, I'll bet I could be President someday too!" After all, I was an obscure, small town kid from rural America with blue-collar roots—similar to Lincoln. If he could succeed in a BIG way, why couldn't I do the same thing if I was willing to keep trying until I succeeded?

In time, I discovered that politics was not the right field for me to pursue; however, I never stopped DREAMING BIG — just like those Power Tales encouraged me to do.

Another example also came from the book about Abraham Lincoln. After losing an election (and he lost many of them), Lincoln was quoted in his Power Tale—The Power of Trying Again—as once saying: "I feel like the boy who stubbed his toe; it hurt too bad to laugh, but he was too big to cry." 

My mind has recalled these words of Lincoln on many occasions throughout my life when I lost something, was rejected (or ignored), or otherwise temporarily failed at something. And I've failed (temporarily) a LOT in my life. In fact, I've probably failed more often (and at more things) than anyone I've ever personally known. Not because I'm a failure, but because I've tried so hard to accomplish difficult tasks.

I learned at a very young age that if I wanted to be like Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, or Florence Nightingale, I would have to be willing to "Persist until I Succeed" (Mandino) "however long or hard the road" (Holland). I learned further that if I wanted to accomplish something as significant as my Power Tale heroes, my road would inevitably be LONG and HARD. While my recollection of Lincoln's words didn't take away the pain of so many gut-wrenching moments along the way, it was always comforting to know that someone as great, noble, and accomplished as Abraham Lincoln understood what it felt like to lose (or miss out on) something that was very important to him.

My maternal grandmother died in 1992, when I was only 12 years old. I do not know who ended up getting her Dramatized Power Tales. A few years ago, however, I noticed that my dear Aunt Nedra had a set of Dramatized Power Tales in her home library. I was thrilled to see them again. More recently, I asked my Aunt—who is like a second mother to me—if I could buy the set from her so I could share them with my children. Aunt Nedra would not take any money for them, but she cheerfully gave them to my sister Jessie and me so we could pursue our desired pedagogical purpose with our children. 

Jessie took them first and shared them with her kids. Then it was my turn. Yesterday, I finished the 15th and final book and tape with my oldest son Tucker (age 7). My daughter Kara (age 5) also listened in on some of them, although Tucker's attention span and interest was greater due to his age, and perhaps my undying enthusiasm for the material.

How rewarding it has been for me to observe my kids start to be positively influenced from the fine examples and tremendous lives of these remarkable human beings from the past. And how rewarding it will yet be to see them further influenced as we start listening to them all over again.

When Tucker has complained about having to attend "virtual school" during the COVID-19 crisis, it has been powerful to be able to cite the true stories of people like George Washington Carver and Hellen Keller, who had to overcome significant obstacles to be able to attend school at all. By highlighting these concrete examples, I have been able to help him realize how blessed he is and how relatively easy his schooling experience is.  

In a nation and world that often seems more interested in demonizing those who lived in the past, rather than focusing on the positive lessons we can learn from imperfect, but still inspiring people, perhaps the time has come to resurrect the Spirit of Power Tales for a whole new generation of students throughout the United States and World.

It is true that such simplistic history frames the past in an animated and rose-colored manner. It is also true that for older students, it is both appropriate and important to teach history in an honest, transparent, and balanced fashion. At the same time, however, I wonder if we might not all be better off if we strove to focus a little more on the virtues and achievements of those who lived in the past, rather than seeking endlessly to magnify their vices and failings — as if we in the present are somehow beyond all reproach ourselves.

While it is vital that we take the bad with the good as we seek to understand history as it really was, I believe it is just as important to build upon the strengths of the past in an effort to build an even stronger present and future—rather than focusing unduly on the skeletons in our history books. And while there is no shortage of bones in our collective past, perhaps we would all do well to remember the words of Jesus when judging those who came before us: 

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

In short, instead of desecrating and destroying statues and legacies from the past, why not build up even more shrines to those whose imperfect, yet ultimately worthy, examples are still worth emulating in our day, age, and time. In so doing, we might just succeed in promoting a whole new edition of Power Tales that generations unborn may yet be inspired by — just as I was inspired by the 1980s animated version. 

Click HERE to learn more about our Vision and Mission at Freedom Focused.

Click HERE to buy a copy of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks


Monday, September 14, 2020

Miss America Endorses Self-Action Leadership


Shortly after graduating from college at Utah Valley University, I had the privilege of returning to my alma mater to serve as a Personal Assistant to Dr. Bruce H. Jackson, then Director of The Center for the Advancement of Leadership (the CAL) at UVU. It was a formative job that provided me with priceless professional opportunities that further strengthened the career foundation upon which I continue to build with SAL and Freedom Focused today.

One of the most memorable things I had the chance to do while serving Dr. Jackson at the CAL was to escort a former Miss America -- Sharlene Wells Hawkes -- during our annual leadership conference in 2004.  Mrs. Hawkes was crowned Miss America twenty years previously and honorably represented the United States throughout 1985 in that highly esteemed role.

I'm still not sure how I managed to land such a coveted assignment that day, especially when Dr. Jackson had two personal assistants and the other guy -- another young man the same age as me -- was my hierarchical equal; but I certainly didn't complain about being assigned the task!  

Aside from being beautiful and talented -- two qualities that are a given for anyone who has held the title "Miss America" -- there were other qualities I discovered about Mrs. Hawkes that were even more salient and impressive than her talent and beauty. First of all, despite her confident bearing and obvious social prestige, she was kind and respectful to little old me -- and everyone else she met at UVU that day. All during our time together, I never got the sense that she looked down on me -- or anyone else for that matter. Second, she possessed an enthusiasm and cheerfulness that was electric and infectious. One would have had to try very hard to be negative or pessimistic in her presence, not that she would have explicitly shot one down if one tried, but her aura of positivity would have simply overpowered anything to the contrary. This enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and optimism made me feel empowered around her -- a trait I have discovered that all great leaders share. Suffice it to say, I was impressed, and these impressions have remained clear in my mind and heart to this very day -- nearly 16 years after the fact.

In short, she was a Class Act in every imaginable way.    

In intervening years, Sharlene and I have kept in loose contact with each other. She was kind enough to provide an endorsement quote for the first version of the SAL textbook I published back in 2006. In addition, her 14-year old daughter (at the time) served as a peer-reviewer for the same text, which was written for a teenage audience.  

Recently, I touched base with Sharlene again. She has not changed a bit, and even though our most recent conversation occurred only virtually via LinkedIn, I could tell she remains as cheerful, enthusiastic, positive, and active as ever. And once again, she generously accepted my invitation to contribute an endorsement quote for my work, this time for the current (2019) version of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks.  

Here is what she had to say:

"Since I was crowned Miss America in 1984, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world to meet with countless leaders, educators, and families. In doing so, I have noticed that the attributes that factor most greatly in the long-term success of individuals and groups -- like personal character and the ability to lead and influence others in positive and productive ways -- are not taught in homes to the same degree that they were when I was growing up. 
If students don't learn these things in their homes, schools become the "next defense" and maybe even their "last best hope" to obtain them before entering the professional workforce. Unfortunately, schools these days often shirk their duty in this regard as well. As such, I am thrilled to see that Jordan has dedicated his career to bridging this glaring pedagogical gap and meeting this much-needed character component in schools, universities, and organizations. I heartily endorse Dr. Jensen's work and encourage leaders, administrators, and educators everywhere to embrace Self-Action Leadership in their states, districts, schools, and organizations." 

- Sharlene Wells Hawkes   -   Miss America, 1985

What an honor it is to have my work endorsed by such an authentic and capable leader whose own character is so admirable and worthy of emulation. Thank you, Sharlene, for your kindness, generosity, and example of what Self-Action Leadership personified looks and sounds like.  

If you have not already done so, I invite you to procure a copy of the Self-Action Leadership textbooks. Read and study the books yourself. Then complete the SAL Master Challenge and earn your own medal and diploma along the way. Finally, tell your family members, friends, and local educators about this unique and unprecedented resource for teaching self-leadership, character, and life-skills' oriented curriculum in homes, schools, communities, and organizations everywhere. I promise you that your life, and the lives of others, will be positively and productively impacted as a result. How do I know this? Because my own life is what it is because of my own commitment to the principles and practices outlined therein.  

Click HERE to learn more about our Vision and Mission at Freedom Focused.

Click HERE to buy a copy of the Self-Action Leadership Textbooks


Monday, September 7, 2020

Paying the PRICE to Become a CHAMPION


In my last blog post, I explained what sets SAL apart from other personal development programs on the market.  Today’s email sheds further light on these important distinctions.   


After a leader has formulated an intelligent plan that respects Natural Law, HARD WORK becomes the indispensable variable in achieving results and obtaining success.  When it comes to being the BEST—or more importantly, your BEST—there is simply no substitute under the sun for good old-fashioned sweat equity.


All of the world’s most accomplished geniuses understand this principle, which was perhaps best articulated by that incomparable inventor Thomas Edison, who quipped that: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” 


Regardless of raw talent or access to capital and other resources, TRUE CHAMPIONS are always the ones who want victory the most and are willing to work the hardest to be victorious.  They demonstrate their determination through an undeviating commitment to the goal—and more importantly, to the process that leads to the goal.  They are consistent, persistent, and unrelenting.  They are also always learning and tweaking their approach along the way.  Most importantly, they do not merely persist until a major roadblock crosses their pathway.  They persist until they succeed—come what may. 




Champions comprehend the price tag attached to authentic growth, achievement, and victory.  Consequently, they do not cut corners in their efforts to succeed.  They diligently adhere to the “Law of the Farm” (Stephen Covey) and “Do not Skip any Steps” (Michael Jordan) in the process.  They also recognize that in the long-run, losing is part of winning.  Therefore, they are not afraid to lose.  Recognizing that the only true failure is to give up on a worthwhile endeavor, their biggest fear is that they will fail to try or put in the necessary effort.  In the inspiring words of basketball’s GOAT, Michael Jordan:


“I have missed over 9,000 shots in my career.  I have lost over 300 games.  Twenty-six (26) times I was trusted to take the game-winning shot—and missed.  I have failed over and over and over again in my life; and that is why I succeed.”   


Champions put in the time required to achieve greatness.  You are probably familiar with the “10,000-hour rule” made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book, Outliers.  Champions understand this rule and earnestly seek to put in whatever time is required to succeed at the highest levels. 


I know from my own experience the veracity and vitality of the “10,000-hour Rule.”  Regardless of any raw talents or natural proclivities I may possess, I know for certain that there is no substitute for the approximately 20,000 hours I have invested in writing, speaking, and teaching over the course of the past 30 years of my education and career.


This point was confirmed by a piece of feedback I received from a fellow writer back in 2014.  This writer had reviewed the first edition of the SAL textbook, which was self-published in 2006 and targeted a high school audience.  After reviewing some of my blog posts eight (8) years later, she emailed me and said, “Jordan: I just had to write and tell you that your writing is about 10,000 times better than it used to be.”  It was interesting how she employed the number 10,000 in her compliment.  While certainly hyperbolic, she made her point both clearly and symbolically. 


Why had my writing improved so much over the course of those eight (8) years?  Because I had been working diligently on the skill and had spent thousands of additional hours studying, practicing, and teaching the art and science of written composition over the course of those eight years.  I had paid the price to become an elite professional in my field.  That was over six (6) years ago, and I have spent several thousand additional hours writing since 2014. 


One of the most significant variables that sets the SAL Textbooks apart from other personal development books is that it was not written just once.  Instead, it was written and published SIX (6) times over the course of 14 years—in 2006, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2019.  Not only did my own writing vastly improve over that time period, but I also got the input, feedback, and observations of many others who were able to spot things I missed, and otherwise assist me in a variety of areas that greatly improved the overall product.  As such, you can imagine the extent to which the 2019 version has improved upon the 2006 edition.




Answer:  Time, effort, sacrifice, growth, maturity, and consultation with others.


It's simple in theory; but the actual time must be invested to realize real results.  The price must always be paid for authentic and significant success in school, sports, or life.  


There is no other way!


The beauty of the
SAL Textbooks is that unlike most self-help or personal development material or programs, it invites students to not merely read or review the material in an attempt to get temporarily “pumped up.”  Instead, it challenges students to REALLY STUDY it over extended periods of time in a committed effort to put in the time to become a TRUE CHAMPION.


Bottom Line: The ART and SCIENCE of becoming a CHAMPION requires diligent STUDY over long-periods of time.


That’s just the way things are. 


Of all the subjects taught in our high schools and universities, where is the most important class of all?  You know, the one that teaches students how to effectively navigate LIFE ITSELF?  Where is the course that trains young men and women to think critically about the leadership and direction of their own lives?  Among the countless subject offerings in our nation’s many colleges, why are the weightier matters of character, conduct, conscience, and leadership so routinely flouted in favor of a whole menagerie of fringe topics that do very little (if they do anything at all) to improve student’s lives—and empower them to positively and productively influence the greater community and world beyond? 


For those who intuitively recognize the self-evident reality that such courses ought to be just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic, a comprehensive course on LIFEand its leadershipfinally exists.  Self-Action Leadership, Volumes I & II, serve as the Textbooks for this course.

Click HERE to buy your copy of the SAL Textbooks today.

Check out previous versions of the SAL Textbooks below (2006, 2013, and 2015, respectively).  We've come a long way since 2006!  The 2007 version was entitled "Leaders for Life" and was set to go to print by a publisher who dishonestly reneged on our signed contract.  Such is life.  Lesson learned: never work with that guy again.  The 2012 version was my doctoral dissertation.  


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