You talk about your faith, and I am aware of that. How do you dial that in? Do you start the morning with that? Do you do devotions? Do you Sabbath? How do you stay with the Creator who can give us the power that we need to do the things that we need to do?
I spent the first twenty years of my life not being aware of that at all. Not even knowing him. It was my fourth summer on the field that through the influence of the sales manager who shared his story with me that I finally realized this is what I need in my life and my eternity. At that moment, when I accepted Jesus into my life as my savior, things didn't become easier. I had my hardest year in the business ever after I made that decision.
As a young naive person, I thought, “Now that I'm a Christian, everything is going to be easy.” Wrong. He doubled down at that point. We know that for the first book of James, the trying of our faith makes patience, so we should count it all joy. I love the word joy. Every morning when I wake up, I have my first thought. It used to be my first thought was, “I wish I could sleep another hour.” My older brother passed away at 58. My baby sister passed away at 46. When my brother died, I woke up and said, “I'm now an orphan and an only child but I'm still here.”
Every day from that point until this point, my first thought of the morning is, “Thank you. I'm grateful I have got another day.” It's how I started my day, then I might say, “I wish I could sleep another hour.” Leaning into that thankfulness, gratitude, and sense of “I have got this opportunity. Let me use it as well as I can.” It's a big one. It helps overcome weariness too.
I love to use the word orphan. When I lost Gloria years ago, I didn't have children and both my parents were gone. I remember somebody telling me, “Now you are like an orphan.” I was like, “I can't believe you said that because now I can't get this out of my head.” That is what Christ said. He goes, “I'm going to leave you and you are going to be orphans but not for long because I'm going to send you the comforter and the advocate and the Holy Spirit.”
You lean into that, like you said, with your eternity. Now, I play my inheritance and I know I'm going to see my family on the other side and my brother Jerry who I lost. Otherwise, it is a little bit, when you finally hit that and go, “I'm alone,” then you are like, “No, you are not alone. That's what Satan wants you to think.” Thank you so much for sharing that. That tender memory. The next thing he talked about was abandonment. I'm a big pet rescue person so abandonment is a very bad word and fear of abandonment is a bad thing but Charles talked about abandonment in a sense of pruning and hyper-focus.
I can remember him telling me, “I do more in a day to contribute to my failure than my success. Every day, I have to abandon what I like and want to think about and do in favor of what I ought and need to.” You have touched on this before. I'm sure in your role so many new ideas and wonderful things. You are crafting the business for the future, so you always have to be open but you have to be very tightly focused on what your zone of gifting is and what you are calling is for the organization. How do you abandon all the stuff that you shouldn't stay focused on?
That's a difficult challenging question about which many books have been written, I'm sure. In my mind, the important thing is to realize that every single individual human being has limits. When we view ourselves as unlimited in our ability, we are not even telling the truth because we all have limits. We wouldn't have associates, colleagues, younger people, and people who want to move up and want to learn things, we limit them by having that belief. That sense, “I have got to do this. I'm the only one that can do this.” Even though that sounds contradictory the leader is only a person, the leader is always looking to the people around them and giving them opportunities to fail, chances to grow, and opportunities to fail.
I had to abandon the sense that I had to do everything myself. I can remember when I hit that point. It was in the mid-'80s. I was trying to lead a team of people. Down the organization a bit. I was struggling with lots of things and I had this little plaque on my desk that said, “I will do it.” One of my alumni came in, he said, “That's a lot like my sign.” His sign was different. His sign said, “It can be done.” Now the difference between I will do it, which is very self-centered and it can be done is a huge difference.
I had to abandon the idea that I'm the only guy that has any brains. I'm the only guy who didn't get it done and give other people that chance to grow. As a leader, I suppose my main goal was always to help people have resources, which means listening ears and some guidance, but never trying to do their job for them. First of all, I wouldn't do it as well as they could do it. Every time I'd say, “This is what I want. That's how I want it done.” It was a huge mistake.
Instead, I said, “This is what I want done. How do you think you could do it?” They come up with the most brilliant, amazing, clever, and creative ideas in the universe. Abandonment to me was abandoning the idea that I'm some wonder boy. I'm going to get it done. It couldn't be farther from the truth. That was a big lesson and hopefully, I have been able to continue that throughout the whole course of my career.
Have you ever heard the poem The Indispensable Man?
I don't think I have.
I came across it. It came out many years ago The Indispensable Man. Every time I bring it up, people are like, “I have heard it.” Very much the same thing. It's all about keeping your ego in check because we do the best we can but do you know what? If you are gone, the world will continue spinning on its access. Do the best you can and it's about pouring into the lives of others. It's a very poignant thing that helps you remember and keep it.
Your comments reminded me of my favorite patent quote, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” I love what you talked about there, allowing them to bring the creative stuff and it can be none. Not all do it because that's how we do this. That's how we burn ourselves out. Nobody likes working for somebody if the boss is going to do everything.
Not only that. It causes people to lose their hope that they have a future here. It’s giving that chance to grow is so important.
Thank you for that. The last thing my father talked about was vision and growing up with all these visionaries. I was always like, “They have different blood coursing through their veins or they are wired differently.” He's like, “Vision is seeing what needs to be done. There's this visualization or attraction then doing it, the action piece.” I'm like, “I can do that.” It was always very encouraging to me. What does vision look like for you? How do you continually look to the future for the best possible version of what you and your enterprise can be?
To me, vision is often mistaken for financial goals. People would say, “This is our five-year vision to be an X million-dollar company or to be this size company.” Maybe that's a financial goal. It's not a vision. A vision is a state of future affairs that we'd like to be able to see and all the financial dimension is an important part of that. There's the people's illness so much more important. Years ago, sometime before I was born, the company developed a motto, “Building character and young people since 1868.”
That's where I grew up under. That was a powerful mission statement. An important one. We found over the years students would become maybe a little more cynical, and a little bit more influenced by outside people. They said, “What's this character stuff all about anyway? I don't need character. I need a good resume.” We modified it and we decided that the whole key is can we be the best organization in the world? Not the biggest. Not the largest. Not even the fastest-growing.
It can be the best organization in the world at helping young people develop the skills and the character they need to achieve their goals in life. That vision has always been the core at least as long as I have been in leadership at the company. To me, vision means seeing something big, is your dad talked about SIBKIS, See It Big Keep It Simple. The keep it simple part was we'd always ask the question after we make some big decision or in the process make a big decision.
Is it going to help our young people achieve their goals in life or is it something we think is a shiny good idea? It won't help them achieve their goals in life. It doesn't fit our mission. If we don't fit our mission, our vision is never going to happen. The vision of being the best organization in the world is a tough one because there are some amazing organizations out there helping young people.
We are going to keep working, keep striving, and the team that's there after me. It's the best people we have ever had in the world. The new president of the company is a young man you know very well, named Dave Koser. Dave is somebody who's been in the business longer than I have been. What a blessing it was when he stepped up that leadership and said, “Yes, I will take that role.”
Thank you for sharing that on vision and I love that. It keeps you purpose-oriented in everything. Is it going to help our young people achieve their goals? I wrote that down because I'm on several college boards and stuff and that's a great thing to say. I know it may look good from our level, but if you are not helping the young people achieve their goals, that's a great qualifier.
That's a litmus test for any decision that you make if you are working with any organization like that.
The raising the future leaders. We did loneliness, weariness, abandonment, and vision. I want to open it up now because you have laid some incredible truths and wisdom on us. Thank you so much. I got about a page and a half a note scribbled down. What else do you have going on? You have a new book coming out and I'd like to talk about your book. I'd like you to share with our readers about the Southwestern Company in case they want to get involved or anybody out there reading or has kids grandkids or great-grandkids. What's next for you now that you have retired? What does the next chapter look like for Dan? First of all, could you tell us about your new book coming out?
Happy to do that. The idea of a book is something that probably a lot of people think about over the course of their lives and somebody says, “You ought to write a book.” I got serious about it years ago. I remember what happened. The presentation I developed over the years for students primarily on how to prepare for a future that nobody can predict. What it had to do with is the rate of change so incredibly fast. Many students would start a subject as a freshman in college.
By the time they are senior, it's already obsolete. This rate of change created all kinds of scare and uncertainty. What am I going to do for a living someday? Everything's changing so fast. What hits me all the time is it's internal qualities to get us through anything. It's true in your background in the military as the internal qualities that get people through in business. The internal decision that keeps a marriage together. The internal factors to keep a family growing.
To me, the internal part was can I become more self-aware? Can become more effective in dealing with people? Can I be more resilient and be more emotionally flexible? I began to give this presentation on campuses. Students always enjoyed it. Occasionally, they’d invite their parents to come. At the University of Colorado Boulder, I gave a presentation. I still remember the evening. We were in the environmental science building and a young man came and said, “I want to meet my dad. My Dad's here.” The dad walked up, shook my hand, and said, “Have you written this into a book?” I said, “No.”
He didn't smile at all. He said, “You should,” and he walked out. That's planted the idea in my head. The next year, I said, “I will start writing it,” and I thought, “This can be easy.” Two years later, I have only written two pages. A colleague challenged me and said, “Dan, I want you to finish that book this year.” Maria and I went to her home. She grew up in the beautiful Azores Islands which are part of Portugal, in the middle of the Atlantic. We took a long break and I remembered taking out my laptop, sitting in a coffee shop, and started writing 80% of it.
The whole key to that is understanding that if we can develop these internal skills and internal characteristics, we are going to be better off in life. The name of the book deals very much with something we all learned when we started selling books. Do you remember the phrase control which you can control and don't worry about the results? I want to sell books so that we can control certain things. Control our effort and the number of demonstrations we make.
We can control only a few things truly in our lives. Even our attitude. We always think, “I can control my attitude.” If you can do that, you are a better person than I am because I have learned over the years things can throw me off my stride, left field, a curve ball comes in and knocks me in the head. We can influence our attitude. We can certainly influence other people. Most of the things that happen in the world are things that we can either control or influence.
As I looked at people hitting their heads against that wall over and over, it occurred to me if they'd spend some of that emotional energy maybe on some things they could control and more on things they could influence. The things they need to accept for now, put them on the side. That's the title of the book, Control, Influence, Accept (For Now): Coping with a Future No One Can Predict.
I’m very excited about it. I had tremendous feedback from various editors, advanced readers, and people who said, “This would be better, do this and this.” It’s a collaborative effort there. The book is due out on October 31st, 2023. It is available for pre-order through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I'm mostly excited because of some young people. I regard young people as anybody on this side of the Earth, by the way. I still think I'm a young person. It can continue to grow throughout our lives. Whatever those lives mean. This can be worth it to us. That's what the book is all about.
That's so important. I love that and that's what Southwestern taught me. It's about processes and habits. People have these wild outcome goals. Outcome goals of the hardest because there's so much beyond your control but the procedures and the processes, how many doors you knock on, how well you prepare, and all that stuff. That's the stuff that I can control. If you follow that then success. You will hit you will hit the outcome goals.
Very important because people are losing that. A lot of the divisiveness is, “They got it at the cost of you.” It's like, experience and opportunity are equitable but you are bringing these truths out there. These are immutable truths for people to understand. Charles will always say, “Nothing works unless you are working.” Teach them how to work in a manner that brings the goals that they are looking for. I can't wait. Very exciting. We will put the links out there for that too.
Thank you for that.