Learn from other’s mistakes

I’ve enjoyed doing a lot of different things in my life. Since getting out of the Navy I have worked in a factory, farmed, sold seed corn, pastored a church, served in a ministry position in our denomination, owned and managed a small business, served as a Transitional Pastor in a church, and owned and operated an auctioneer business. I’ve retired twice, and neither of them took! The fact is, I enjoy being busy. I’ve enjoy everything I’ve done and most of my efforts have been successful. Except for one.

We owned the small business for about 14 years. The first several years things went well,, and then 2008 happened. As the economy tanked so did our business. Now, I don’t blame the economy for the closing of our business. There were many businesses that struggled but survived during that time, and there were some businesses that prospered. The only thing the downturn in the economy did was to show how poorly I had managed the business. A good economy covers a multitude of sins, but a bad economy brings those failures to the forefront. After doing everything we knew to save the business there was nothing left but to do but shut down and sell everything at auction. It was a very tough time in my life because it was the worst failure I had known in all the things I had done.

One of my primary gifts is that of a teacher. About a year after we sold the business I decided I needed to let people know how to avoid the mistakes that could cost them their businesses. The failure rate for small business start-ups is high, and if I could help others avoid the pain I had experienced then something good could come out of that difficult time. I decided to write a book that described the various things I had done wrong that led to our business closing. I decided early that I would honestly describe the wrong actions I had taken and offer ways to avoid those mistakes. Although I have published eight books through traditional publishing companies I decided to publish this book as an e-book to make it more affordable to anyone who owns a small business or is thinking about starting one.

Every small business owner, every entrepreneur, every person who has considered starting a small business should read this book. None of the mistakes I made were major, but together they spelled disaster for our business.

There are two ways of learning. One is to make the mistakes yourself. The other is to learn from the mistakes of others. The first method is the most painful and costly. For $4.95 you can learn from my mistakes and avoid making the mistakes I made.

You can order this book for your Kindle device by clicking here. If you use a NOOK device you can purchase the book here. I think you’ll agree that $4.95 is a small price to pay for the information this book will give you.


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Letting go

Earlier this week I had a call from a lady who had stored her father’s belongings for several years after he had moved in with her family. She said she was tired of paying rent to a storage facility and wanted to ask about an auction. Like many people, she had never sold at an auction before and wanted to know how the process worked.

It became very obvious at the beginning of the conversation that she expected to sell the items at retail price. She mentioned a few specific items that would probably sell for a good price, but she also admitted that a lot of what they had was pretty common. I explained how some items are not realizing the prices they brought a few years ago, and she was adamant that she “was not going to give the stuff away.”

She asked about putting a reserve price on some items. I explained that I will do that on expensive items, but that I do not like doing so on very many pieces. It kills the auction to announce a reserve on too many many items. I offered to come to their home to see what they had so I could give her a better idea of what she might expect. She contacted me the next day saying they would hold onto their things a little longer.

I realize it’s hard to let things go, especially if they have belonged to family members or other loved ones. The sentimental value of the items is often far greater than the actual value, and it seems wrong to sell family possession for so little. However, like I explained to one elderly lady one time, “This was not anyone else’s grandmother’s dresser. No one who attends the auction will have any sentimental attachment to it. They are there to purchase it for the lowest dollar they can.” Fortunately, she decided to have another auctioneer sell her belongings, and although I was told by someone who attended the auction that she got good prices he also told me she was very upset at those prices.

Numerous articles have appeared recently discussing how today’s younger generation does not want the items accumulated by their parents. At some point, each of us will have to make decisions about what to do with our possessions. One thing is certain: we will not take anything with us when we leave this world. So what do we do?

The two choices we have is to sell the things we no longer need. This gives us the satisfaction of knowing someone else will get to enjoy the things we’ve enjoyed over the years. This option also gives us the opportunity to do something with the money we raised by selling those things. The other option is to just leave everything to our heirs and let them dispose of the things we owned. Perhaps they’ll have an auction, a yard sale, put an ad on Craigslist. Or the worst scenario, as one person said to me, “I’m afraid they will just haul everything to the dump so they don’t have to fool with it.”

I’ve seen so many people struggle with letting things go. I really do feel their pain as it is saying good-by to part of their history. However, there comes a time when we do have to let things pass on to others. For me, when that time comes, I want to be the one to make that decision and not dump that on someone else.

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Stay motivated

Several years ago I attended a motivational event that featured a number of well-known individuals speaking on their specialties. The primary speaker, in my opinion, was Zig Ziglar. I had heard him on a number of occasions give the same presentation and knew it almost as well as he did, but that did not distract me from wanting to hear it again. I’ve referenced a number of his quotes in sermons and seminars I’ve done over the years. One of my favorite ones was he was asked if attending a motivational event was worthwhile. After all, the questioner continued, it doesn’t last. Zig responded that neither does bathing which is why it’s important to do it regularly.

Last night I finished re-reading his book Over the Top: Moving from Survival to Stability, from Stability to Success, from Success to Significance. I’ve probably read it 4-5 times and  find it helpful and encouraging every time I read it.

It’s so easy to get frustrated and discouraged at times. A person might begin the day with great intentions and yet find out by 9:00 that they just don’t feel like doing any of the things they had planned. Another person might have mapped out a strategy for overcoming a challenge they’ve faced for some time only to find out this strategy won’t work either. We could list dozens of scenarios that can lead to discouragement.

Winston Churchill is quoted as defining success as “going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” To overcome those failures and frustrations it’s important that we stay motivated to succeed. It’s why I read and re-read books that encourage and motivate me. It’s why I attend motivational events on occasion and why I listen to podcasts and watch videos of motivational speakers.

It’s also why I focus on motivating the persons who attend my conferences and seminars. I often speak to small church pastors who are struggling with various ministry challenges. Many of them are bivocational which means they have other employment in addition to their ministries. This creates additional pressures on them and their families. As I share my presentations with them I want to encourage them and help motivate them to remain faithful to the task before them. I want them to know the work they are doing is important and appreciated by those they are serving.

What do you do to stay motivated? Regardless of where you are in life or what you do, there will be times when the challenges seem almost too great. Only the motivated will rise above those challenges. Staying motivated doesn’t happen by accident. You have to intentionally take steps to remain motivated. I shared above some of the things I do. You need to find what will work for you. Regardless of what it is, do it on a regular basis to maintain the motivation you need to succeed in life.

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The Failure of Socialism

Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. He is a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist who ran on a very progressive platform. His defeat to Clinton was all but certain due to certain policies the Democratic National Convention established prior to the election cycle. Although Sanders lost the election, he remains a popular figure among many voters, and others have adopted his socialist platform as they seek offices in the 2018 election.

These young Democratic Socialists are running on a platform that states the Federal government should provide free health care for all people, free college tuition, jobs for all Americans, the elimination of ICE, and a host of other freebies. It sounds very much like the old 1928 claim that if Herbert Hoover was elected President there would be a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. Unfortunately, none of these Democratic socialists can explain who would pay for all the freebies they are offering.

Growing up my parents, one Democrat and one Republican, reminded me over and over again that society did not owe me anything. If I wanted to have anything I had to work for it. College was not a right to which I was entitled. Neither were groceries for that matter. We worked hard on the farm, raising a lot of the food we ate and earned the money to buy what we could not raise ourselves by raising livestock and crops. If someone needed help, the community was quick to offer that help, but no one walked around with their hands out waiting for their government check.

These Democratic Socialists scare me because they do not realize that socialism has never worked anywhere except in a university classroom. Socialism has failed in the Soviet Union, France, Venezuela, Cuba and everywhere else it has been tried. It could be argued that even in the United States socialism has been tried in various states and large cities that are now so deep in debt they may never be solvent again. Now, some want to take socialism nationwide to ensure the complete financial ruin of our nation.

Socialism fails for a number of reasons, but the most simple explanation is that it removes personal incentive. Most Americans, at least of a certain age, were taught to work hard, save part of their earnings and enjoy a successful life. To achieve anything of worth it was necessary to pay a price and earn it. That is not the lesson many younger people have been taught. They got participation trophies for showing up and smiley faces instead of grades on their school work. There was no reason to work hard because everyone would receive the same trophy and smiley face. As these individuals entered the workforce they continued to believe they were entitled to everything anybody else had regardless of whether they did anything to deserve it or not. They have no incentive to produce if everything is going to be distributed equally to everyone. Soon, nobody is producing anything and the entire system collapses on itself.

A basic economic principle is that people respond to incentives. Remove the incentive and people have no reason to act. Put a chicken in everybody’s pot and soon no one is interested in earning the money required to buy a chicken. It is frightening that people who want to run our government do not understand this basic economic principle.

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Social Media Advice

Another MLB pitcher has been found to have offensive tweets on his Twitter account. Although these tweets are several years old, they are likely to result in some type of action from Major League Baseball. This is the second such incident in MLB this season, and it’s one more example of how social media can harm your reputation and even cost you a job.

People forget that once something goes out on social media, it’s out there. Whether it’s a tweet you sent out, a scathing comment on your employer or the company you work for, or an inappropriate picture, it’s there for all the world to see. Some companies are now asking for passwords as part of their interview process to view the social media pages of persons they are interviewing.

Most people have strong opinions on various issues, but it becomes a problem when those opinions go public on social media that are read by strangers. We might share those opinions with close friends in private conversations, but few would publish them in the local newspaper. Why do we think it’s OK to publish them on our social media sites?

Here are some guidelines if you are going to use social media.

  • Never post something when you’re angry. When you read something on social media that fires you up, cool down before responding. Better yet…don’t respond at all. It appears many people do not realize that it is acceptable to read something with which you disagree and just walk away from it.
  • Fact check your statements before posting them online or sharing someone else’s post. Do you really believe everything you read on social media is true? Passing on false information makes people question everything you post.
  • If you post opposing comments to something someone has said stick to the facts. Don’t attack their character.
  • Avoid getting into third party arguments. I once responded to something a friend had posted on FB. A friend of his, whom I did not know, attacked my comment and to make sure I would know she was right she proceeded to tell me how much more educated she was than me which meant she knew more than me. The fact is, I have more advanced degrees than she did, but I didn’t mention that to her. I simply said that I did not engage in social media arguments and would leave the conversation. (See, it’s OK to walk away.)
  • Practice civility. I blame social media on much of the incivility that exists in our society today. It’s so easy for people to make ugly comments when they can do so anonymously. Because they’ve made those types of comments on social media they now feel free to act that way in personal interactions.
  • Say nothing negative about your employer or the company for which you work. My generation was raised to believe that you did not say anything negative about the ones who provide you with a job and an income. If you hate working there that much, quit and then feel free to say anything you want. Just remember that if you fill your social media with nasty comments about your previous or current employer you may find future employers reluctant to hire you.
  • Avoid racist or offensive comments of any kind. Such comments have no business on social media or anywhere else for that matter.

Social media can be a great way to build your personal or business brand. It gives you a platform to show what you know and can do. Many successful people have used social media to build their businesses and/or promote themselves. But, it can also cause you a lot of problems if used inappropriately. Follow the guidelines above, use social media responsibly and you will enjoy greater success in life.

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Stop Wasting Money

A lot of people complain about needing more money to live, but the truth is that many people have enough money to live quite well if they would stop wasting it. I occasionally buy storage units when people have defaulted on their payments. It’s similar to what you see on Storage Wars on TV. It amazes me that people would rent a unit to store the junk they put in those units.

I recently bought a unit that consisted primarily of bags of clothes, a flat screen TV and a Christmas tree. When I plugged the TV in I found out the screen was cracked. The Christmas tree had a price of 39.95 on the box, and the clothes smelled moldy from being in plastic bags in the unit. I do not know the situation of the people who owned that unit,  but the money they paid to rent that unit was wasted. They could have thrown all that stuff away, sold it at a yard sale, or donated it to an organization and been money ahead.

People go to rent-to-own businesses to rent furniture, computers, appliances, and whatever else those places offer to rent. That is a very expensive way to get items for your home. If a person makes all their payments they will pay far more than they could have bought the item retail. I understand people being on a tight budget, but any of those items could be purchased used. The last washer and dryer we bought I purchased at an auction for $200.00. The washer and dryer were like brand new. It would make a lot more sense for someone struggling financially to purchase used and save up the money to pay cash to replace it with new items when needed.

For years I carried credit card debt until I finally realized how much money I was wasting each month in interest payments. I began listening to Dave Ramsey and purchased his book The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. That’s when I learned how much my credit card was actually costing me. We began working very hard, following the steps outlined in his book, to eliminate that debt. Because of my excellent credit, our interest rate was low. Some people are paying 18-21 percent interest rates which costs them even more money. That interest they are paying is wasted money that is suffocating them financially.

Many of our money problems are due to our inability to put off pleasure. We want to drive a new car, but since we don’t have the cash to pay for a new car we finance one for seven years almost ensuring that we will never have the cash for a new car. Young people today often want to live in the same type of home in which they were raised forgetting that their parents probably started out in something much smaller that they could afford. Rather than doing the same, they take on a mortgage that they cannot afford and become house poor. We want a new pair of shoes or a new set of golf clubs, and rather than save up to buy them we whip out our credit card and go deeper in debt.

As long as the economy is strong and you don’t lose your job and nothing unexpected happens and you don’t get sick, etc., etc., etc. you find ways to manage. But, what happens when the economy tanks as it did in 2008? What happens when your company gets bought out by another company that does not need your services? What happens when a medical emergency happens? Like in 2008 people lose their homes, they file bankruptcy, they lose their cars, and they have a financial mess on their hands that might take years to overcome.

Last year our church hosted Financial Peace University to help people who were struggling financially. When the class ended a few weeks later we heard some incredible success stories from those who went through the class. We plan to offer it again this fall.

If you are struggling financially you are the one who has to make the necessary changes to regain control of your finances. Whether you attend an FPU class in your area, read Ramsey’s book, or follow some other plan that will get you back on track financially you are the one who has to make this work. I am so glad we began taking the necessary steps a few years ago to turn our finances around. I just wish we had done so earlier in life! Don’t wait any longer. Stop wasting your money. You work too hard to waste it.

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Life-Long Learning

In 1996 I retired from a factory where I had worked for 30 years. In our last union contract we had won a 30-and-out plan making anyone eligible for retirement after working there 30 years. The way my dates worked out I was able to retire from that job at 47 years of age. Of course, I had plenty of things to do to keep me busy as I was also serving as a pastor of a small church and president of a small business we had obtained a few years earlier.

Few people today remain at a job 30 years. Some say that the average person entering the workforce today will have 12 different jobs before he or she retires. Years ago I heard Zig Ziglar say that there was no such thing as job security anymore. The best we could hope for was employment security, and one of the best ways to ensure we would remain employable was to commit ourselves to lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning is necessary because we are not just going to change jobs every few years. We will have to reinvent ourselves for the new careers that are replacing the ones we are losing. We have to learn new skills and gain new knowledge to enjoy employment security. The days of graduating from high school and/or college and never cracking another book or learning new things is over for everyone who doesn’t want to spend the rest of their lives in the unemployment line.

Rather than going to college after high school I decided to enter the workforce. The day after my 18th birthday I began working in that factory. It wasn’t until several years later I decided I wanted to go to college even though I was working 40 hours a week, pastoring a church, and running the family business. It took me seven years of attending school part time to earn my degree. I was 46 at the time.

Shortly after retiring from the factory I resigned as pastor of the church I had served for 20 years to accept a ministry position in our denomination. A few years into that ministry I decided to begin work on my Masters, and when I graduated with that degree I remained in school to earn a doctorate. Four years later, at the age of 62, I had my doctorate.

During the years I was not enrolled in college or seminary I attended numerous conferences and seminars and averaged reading about 50 books a year. The more I learned the more valuable I was to my employers and the more effective I was in my work.

Not only did my commitment to lifelong learning impact my ministry, it opened up other doors I never dreamed would be possible. It allowed me to publish eight books related to small church ministry and lead to me being asked to lead numerous seminars and conferences for various denominations. At the end of 2015 I retired from the ministry position I held, and a few months later was called to serve as the Transitional Pastor of a church seeking a new pastor. My training and experience has enabled this to be a very productive effort. I will conclude two years of serving in this position next month, and my time in that church will end at the same time when their new pastor begins his ministry there.

New opportunities come into our lives all the time, but only those who are prepared  recognize them. That preparation comes when we are committed to lifelong learning. That does not mean you have to remain in school all your life, but it does mean that you are looking for opportunities to add to your skill sets and your knowledge. Reading good books, attending workshops that interest you, auditing a class at a local college are just some of the ways you can do that.

Few people today are going to remain at one job their entire working career, get the gold watch when they retire, and spend the remainder of their lives on the golf course. Younger workers today will find their careers constantly changing, and often being eliminated by new technology. They have no option to not be constantly learning new things and preparing for new career opportunities. Even those who might be closer to retirement age may find that an enjoyable retirement will elude them if they are not committed to learning new skills that will keep them employable until they do retire.

Make the commitment to lifelong learning. It’s the only way you’ll survive in this rapidly change world.

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