On The Road Again

 

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I made a road trip recently…and lived to talk about it.   Well, a couple weeks after my near-death experience on I-80, Mary and I took another road trip.  This time, we drove from Southern California to Door County, WI.  Thankfully, our car remained in contact with the road for the entire trip.

Traveling across the country twice in the span of 30 days opened my eyes to many observations on our country, our culture, and our history that are applicable to both business and life (and, with all the restraint I can muster, I will completely refrain from using any Springsteen references to cars, roads, highways, etc – although, it will be hard to avoid using the name, “Mary”).

As we start our trips, Mary and I felt like “we were sprung from cages on Highway 9” (damn, I failed already!).  At least we encountered no one “Working on the Highway”, avoided another “Wreck on the Highway”, opted not to “Drive All Night”, and certainly were not going to be “Racing in the Street”.  We choose to drive an Audi and a Jeep and not a “Pink Cadillac” from “Cadillac Ranch” while we were “Out in the Street”.  Along the way, we found some interesting “Backstreets” which allowed us to avoid a “Long Walk Home”.  We saw many a “Highway Patrolman” even when we were in the middle of “Radio Nowhere”.  Whew! I am glad we were able to get that out of our system.

So, what does a cross country trip teach us about business and life?

Find a great co-pilot – How many times have you been driving and needed to do something else – change the navigation system, read the map, search for a new radio station, dump the french fries into the opposite side of the Quarter Pounder box, unscrew the top of the soda bottle, search for money for the toll booth…?  If so, you know how frustrating it can be to try to do it while you are concentrating on the road.

How many times have you been driving and had an amazing thought, saw an amazing view, engaged in an amazing encounter at a rest stop, and thought, “I wish he/she was here to enjoy this with me?”

Building a business, running a company, raising a family – all are extremely hard work. You will be much better off with a great co-pilot to share the load and lend a hand.

Building a business, running a company, raising a family – all are extremely gratifying experiences. You will be much better off with a great co-pilot to share the joy.

Satellite Radio / GPS / Miles to Empty Are Great Inventions – Driving across the country can be boring and tedious at times. It can also be complex.  Having the latest technology is a great gift for making boring, tedious, or complex tasks more efficient and effective.  Technology does not replace the human aspect of the trip – the amazing views, the personal encounters in unique roadside stops, the value judgement on how long you can “hold it” before you get off the highway for a rest stop.  In business and in life, technology should not replace human beings but, rather, allow human beings to do what they do best – interact with other human beings.

It is a vast country – If I had one overwhelming realization from our trips, it would be the shear enormity of the United States.  To all of you on the coasts, do not miss the “fly over states”.  They are AMAZING!  We should hereby change the name to the “drive through states”.  The vast expanse of this country has an effect on you.  You realize how small we are in relation to our world.  You realize how diverse we are in reality and how much more we have in common (common decency) than we don’t.  When holding the door open for me upon entering a gas station during our 13 days on the road (which happened almost every time I entered a station), not one person ever asked my political party affiliation, religious affiliation, sexual preference, or economic status.

To paraphrase Warren Buffet, to be born in the United States of America is to have won “the birth lottery.”  We have the honor and privilege of being in the greatest country on the planet – and the vastness of the country underscores this.  Anything is possible.  Just push your chips into the middle of the table and LET IT RIDE.

There is ALWAYS Construction – Not just on these most recent trips, but every summer trip of any length I have ever taken, there has been construction at some point during the trip.  Building a successful business, family, or life requires us to deal with the inevitable construction delays.  You can get frustrated.  You can get angry at the other drivers.  You can look for shortcuts (and, we all know, end up right back behind the Toyota Corolla you were originally behind when you started your shortcut).  Or, you can play “I Spy” or “License Plate” or “Alphabet” or, my brother, Mark’s, favorite – “Punch Buggy” (he just liked to hit people).

Business and life is not about avoiding construction delays, it is about dealing with construction delays.

Inspiration is all around you – If you are not inspired after a cross country trip, then you are not alive or looking hard enough.  Over 13 days of driving, we encountered…

The Grand Canyon – the single most amazing natural sight I have ever witnessed.  It reinforced my faith in a Creator who is infinitely more powerful than me.  But, it also inspired me to think big.

Mt Rushmore – besides making me very proud to be an American, it inspired me to think outside the box.  Someone looked at the side of a mountain and thought, “I will scale the mountain, set up scaffolding, ropes, pulleys, and levers, and I will carve the faces of the presidents.”  Sure.  Whatever.  Really?  If they can tackle that concept, I am sure you can find a way to address whatever roadblock you are facing at work or at home.

Wall Drug – to a sales guy like me, Wall Drug is the single greatest organic growth marketing concept west of “South of the Border” (“Pedro Says…”).  If they can get millions of drivers to stop at their rest stop over all the others simply with better marketing, imagine what you can do with better marketing AND a quality product to market.

There’s No Place Like Home – Dorothy said it best.  Every restaurant billboard boasts “home cooking”.  Every hotel billboard touts “all the comforts of home”.  Every gas station promotes their restrooms are as “as clean as home”.  Seems to me the thread here is home.  As the great Moonlight Graham from Field of Dreams said about his hometown, “Once a place touches your soul, the wind never blows so cold again.”  We are all restless.  We are all looking for something better. (I know I resemble that comment).  The answer is not out there.  The answer is right here – this business, this firm, this family, this relationship, this country, this town, this God.

“The Road is long and The Road is hard
Spirit’s willing to take the charge
To damn them all with disregard
And to leave The Road for my backyard”
– Excerpt from “The Road” by Michael Marcon

 

Michael C. Marcon is the founder and Managing Member of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, founder and former CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.

 

 

 

I Am Alive Again

 

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“Yesterday, I would not have believed that tomorrow the sun would shine…  I am alive again. I am alive again.” – Chicago

Twice in the past few years, I have cheated death.  Now, maybe I really did not cheat death because, in the moment, my life did not pass before my eyes, a warm calm did not come over me, and I did not see a tunnel or a bright light.  I will let you be the judge.

Last week, Mary and I were 3 days into a 4-day drive from Alamo, CA to Door County, WI.  Since I am “unemployed”, we thought this would be a great time for us to make the drive to Door County for the summer instead of shipping our car.  As we drove safely in the right lane of I-80 with the cruise control set on 83 mph (a mere 8 mph above the speed limit for all you “law and order” types or grandmothers), I was closing on a white, Chevy Impala that was following an 18-wheel big rig. I checked my mirrors, checked my blind spot, used my blinker and started to pass both the Chevy and the truck.  It was as I pulled alongside the Chevy that the driver decided to also pass the truck and, without looking, started to pull into my lane.  I slammed on the horn as I looked and saw the driver blissfully engaged in a conversation and in no way aware the she was about to slam into me at more than 80 mph.  In an instant, we were careening down the embankment of the interstate.  I struggled to keep our car from flipping over while I simultaneously scanned the median for roadblocks and waited for the 18-wheeler to land on top of us (I was certain the Chevy was going to “overcorrect”, hit the truck, and cause the truck to crash).  Ultimately, I think we found the only median on I-80 completely free of obstructions and the truck driver maintained his composure and avoided disaster.  After a few moments of driving down the middle of the grassy median, I found a level spot, checked my mirrors, re-entered the highway and we continued our journey.  I had been run off an interstate highway at 83 mph and 5 minutes later was back on the road as if nothing had happened.

A few years ago, in the middle of a terrible bout of tendonitis in my elbow, I was “resting” the injury and avoiding playing golf.  So, on a beautiful September day, with nothing else to do, I decided to clean my gutters.  For several hours, I went up and down the ladder, removing debris and washing out the gutters all the way around the house.  Being the risk management professional that I am, I was keenly aware of the risk imposed by climbing ladders (as my good friend, Tim Turner, once said, “Mike, there is a reason why ladder manufacturers are insured in the E&S market!” (non-insurance professionals, google it)).  At the end of the day, I had one last task to complete – that single, rogue shingle out of line on the roof had been driving me crazy for months.  I asked Mary to get my toolbox as I climbed the ladder one more time to get on the roof.  As I was pushing off the final step of the ladder and transitioning on to the roof, the ladder slipped out from under me and I went straight back (I later noticed that all my fingertips were raw and cut as, I assume, I reached out when falling and tried to grab the roof shingles).  As I was falling, I remember thinking, “Do not hit your head, Do not hit your head.”  I was able to get myself into a “tuck” position and landed on our concrete patio with the brunt of the fall being absorbed by my lower back and elbows.  As I lay on the ground, the ladder and a large flower planter laying on top of me, I wiggled my fingers and toes and realized I was not paralyzed.  Then, I waited to be hit with the excruciating pain that would be associated with whatever compound fracture I had just received.  But, no pain.  I realized – I’m OK.  Of course, calming Mary down when, upon returning from the garage with my tool box and encountering the sight of me on the ground, was another story.  I had just fallen 14 feet backwards off my roof onto my concrete patio and all I had was a bruise and three stitches in my elbow.

In both examples, as I was in the middle of a “life and death” crisis, upon reflection, I was pleased that I stayed in the moment.  I did not panic.  I did not freak out.  I did a mental checklist of what I needed to do to minimize the severity of an event that had caught me by surprise and was out of my control.

How many times in business are we faced with “life and death” situations?  How did you react?  Or, did you overreact?  Did you set an example for your employees, help them stay calm and focused on the tasks necessary to mitigate disaster or did you cause them to panic and “head for the exits?”  It is said that bravery is not the absence of fear – it is the handling fear.”  Fear of failure is one of the most powerful emotions in business. Successful leaders use it to motivate them.  Mediocre leaders let it control them.

There is a reason why our military trains and trains and trains.  There is a reason why pilots are required to have thousands of hours of flight time before captaining a plane. There is a reason why doctors perform hundreds of operations on cadavers and work thousands of hours on call.  There is a reason why athletes perform their task thousands and thousands of times in practice.  And, there is a reason why young professionals (lawyers, accountants, and, yes, even insurance professionals) start with the “grunt work” and do repetitive tasks.  It is referred to positively by the older generation and derisively by the younger generation as paying your dues.  But, what it is really doing is preparing you for that day when, without warning, (forgive me) the shit hits the fan and you don’t have time to think, you just have to rely on your training and react.

Recently, I have been dealing with another bout of tendinitis.  I have been sitting in our backyard and staring at the two top rows of bricks on our chimney that have been discolored from years of use of the fireplace.  It drives me nuts to see that lack of consistency in the bricks.  So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and fix them. Mary was out and would not be home for a while and I had nothing else to do.  This time, I also avoided a “life and death” situation…

Mary had given away the ladder.

 

Michael C. Marcon is the founder and Managing Member of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, founder and former CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.

 

 

 

 

No Surrender

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“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…”
– Winston Churchill

Of course, Churchill just had to fight off the Nazi’s and protect his country from annihilation.  I wonder how he would have handled trying to launch a new business into which he had just invested his life savings when the tech bubble burst and 9/11 stopped the world of commerce from spinning.  Or, how would he have responded when he just got his business humming on all cylinders when the Great Recession hit.  I don’t know how he would have responded when his job got eliminated just as his oldest child was going off to college and his youngest child needed emergency medical treatment.  Or, how he would respond to graduating college with a mountain of debt and trying to find a job in his chosen industry?  Or, if he were a single parent, abandoned by a spouse and faced with raising a family by himself.

I suspect he would have responded EXACTLY THE SAME WAY!

In business and in life, we are constantly faced with insurmountable odds.  The successful executive and the successful person are the ones who do not quit.  They focus on the potential, not the probable.  As we have discussed before, they choose hope and optimism.  During World War II, Churchill willed his country to victory (of course, it helps to have the U.S. as an ally, too).  But, had he not shown his country his will and his resolve to NEVER give in, it is likely that the outcome would have been very different.

How many times in business have you been faced with an overwhelming challenge?   How many times have you not backed down and, even if the outcome was not optimal, were you ultimately proud of yourself for not quitting?  Conversely, how many times have you folded at the first (or second or third) sign of adversity and kick yourself later for not fighting back?  You cannot always control the outcome, but you can control how you respond to the challenge.  As Randy Pausch said in The Last Lecture, “Brick walls are there for a reason – to see how badly we want something.”

Those of you who remember the animated Christmas classic, Santa Claus is Coming to Town (millennials, you guessed it, YouTube) had a great song that I literally hum to myself whenever I am at my lowest and do not know where to turn…

“Just put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor
Just put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door!”

It is that simple.  Back in the day (before arthritis and artificial hips), I used to be a runner.  I loved going for long runs after work.  One day, I was talking to a much better runner about how I struggled with running up hills.  He told me the secret was to look down, not up.  “If you look down, the pavement looks flat and you don’t focus on the hill, instead you focus on your steps.”  Yup, just one foot in front of the other.

I am currently working on building a new business.  It is a lot of fun and there are many opportunities for success.  It is also significantly harder than I thought it would be.  So, while I hum my tune, I also focus on some great advice my very dear “friend” gave me…

“We made a promise.  We swore we’d always remember.  No retreat, baby.  No surrender.”  Bruce Springsteen

 

Michael C. Marcon is the founder and Managing Member of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, founder and former CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.

Hello. My Name Is Michael Marcon. You Killed My Business. Prepare To Die.

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The Princess Bride is one of the most beloved movies of a generation.  If you read Michael Marcon Tweets from February 5 (“I Believe”), then you know that movie fits all of my priorities for a good movie – good guys beat the bad guys, true love triumphs, catch phrases galore, and, of course, hidden business lessons abound.

The Man in Black  We learn that “the man in black” (TMIB) is actually the hero.  In life and in business, things are never as black and white as they appear. It was only once he was unmasked that we realize TMIB was the hero, not the villain.  One of the most important lessons I learned from my Mom was when she said, “You never know what goes on behind someone else’s closed door.”  You make assumptions about people at your peril. Better to look behind the mask.

“We are men of action. Lies do not become us.”  Of all the great quotes of this movie, this is the one that always stuck with me.  I remember hearing it the first time and thinking, “Yes. I want to be a “man of action.”  Since then, I have thought of it often as I would reflect, “what is the alternative, inaction? Who can live like that?”

“Lies do not become us” is one of the most fundamental premises in life and business.  I love how the movie underscores the fact that, to be a hero, you need to be above reproach.  Lies, in fact, do not become you.

“Inconceivable!”  Just like Vizzini’s best laid plans, things never work out quite the way you think they will.  Viewers tend to focus on Vizzini’s cluelessness.  What astute business leaders should focus on is the fact that each time his plan was foiled, Vizzini did not give up.  He formulated a new plan.  And, each time, he was convinced he had solved his problem.  The only way to truly “capture your princess” is to keep trying different plans until you find the one that works.  Of course, it also helps to make sure you never, ever, “match wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

The inconceivable scenes also highlight another important point in business – just because you sound smart and spout your various technical jargon, it does not mean you are.  Ultimately, you will be judged on your performance.  At Equity Risk, we had a colleague who was constantly using the current business buzzwords and phrases.  But, he never seemed to use them in the right situations.  Instead of impressing people, he highlighted his ignorance and insecurity.  After one unfortunately poor use of a business buzzword, a colleague leaned over to me and whispered, “He keeps using that phrase.  I do not think it means what he thinks it means.”

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” With the possible exception of “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” or “Say hello to my lil friend”, this may be the most quoted line in movie history.  It demonstrates that in order to achieve a goal, you need to have a single- minded devotion to that goal.  Inigo devoted himself to studying fencing and consistently prepared himself for the moment when he would face his nemesis.  As we have learned in business, we never know when our opportunity will present itself. We have to prepare every day. As we learned in life, God has told us that we know not the hour of our reckoning.  We have to prepare every day.

“Have fun stormin’ da’ castle!”  In business and in life, you need a great quest. No matter the odds, life is not worth living and business is not worth doing if you do not have a great quest.  The author of the phenomenal best seller, Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to them as “BHAGs” – “Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals”.  The most difficult aspect of my post-Equity Risk life is finding the next castle to storm.

“There’s not a lot of money in revenge.”  As Inigo says to TMIB, “I just work for Vizzini to pay the bills.”  In business, there is no money in revenge.  You will be wronged.  You will be cheated.  You will get screwed.  Focus on the quest.  Just like in the movies, the bad guys – ultimately – never get away with it.  Don’t waste your time chasing them.  And, boy, have I wasted my time.  Hopefully, I can, in my best Grandpa/Peter Falk voice, tell you a good story and keep you from making the same mistake.

“I want my father back, you son of a bitch!”  No business lesson here.  I just do.

True Love  The Princess Bride serves as a wonderful reminder that the single greatest power for good is true love.  In business, you have to love what you are doing.  You cannot succeed completely if you are focused on money or power or title or office size.  The only way to perform at a consistently high level over a long period of time is if you truly love what you do.  In life, true love defines our entire existence.  From Mary to the boys to Laura to Penelope, true love sustains my every waking moment.  I am consumed by my desire to protect them, provide for them, and watch them achieve their own great quests.

If you have not watched The Princess Bride, I encourage you to do it – with your family.  It will reinforce your faith in humanity (and who does not need that these days).  If you have watched it, I encourage you to watch it again and, as I do, try to incorporate the lessons into your everyday life.

And, if you like what you have read and you would like me to keep posting these thoughts, all I can say is…

As You Wish.

 

Michael C. Marcon is the founder and Managing Member of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, founder and former CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.

The Gospel According to Fred

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When my son, Matthew, was born, I received a very nice gift from my Mom that has stayed with me for the past 25 years. It was a book called A Father’s Book of Wisdom, by H. Jackson Brown (FYI – he also wrote the mega bestseller, Life’s Little Instruction Book). The book contained thoughts and reflections on what it means to be a father. There was one thought that has shaped my view on fatherhood since the minute I read it…

“Today, fathers are more like friends, because they don’t have the guts to be fathers.”

I was thinking of that line last week as I reflected on what would have been my father, Fred’s, 81st birthday. As most of you know, he passed away last year. Over the past 14 months since his death, I have found myself frequently quoting him to others, both in business, as well as in personal settings. During this holy season, I thought I would share with you The Gospel According to Fred. If you follow it religiously, you, too, can have everlasting life… in business.

“What the @#$% do you think you’re doing?” This is what Fred said to me as I dramatically loosened my tie, unbuttoned my collar and plopped into my seat to join him on the train ride home from New York City after “a hard day” at my summer job. He “explained” to me that I would never know who I might run into while on the train and asked me if my current sartorial affectation is how I wanted to present myself. To this day, I have never loosened my collar or lowered my tie until I am safely ensconced in my closet at home. As Fred further told me, “If your collar is too tight, then get a shirt that fits.”

“Play to your strengths and fix your weaknesses.” Fred became the Chairman and CEO of ISO, Inc (now Verisk Analytics) by understanding where he had a competitive advantage and where he did not. ISO is a very data driven business and Fred knew that numbers and data were not his strengths. He fixed his weaknesses by recruiting the best IT and data talent he could find – including, at one point, paying a Senior Vice President a higher salary than Fred was making and President and COO. His comment to me was a great lesson – “That is what it took to get the best talent. He doesn’t know that he makes more than me. He was the best person and it will ultimately help the company succeed. And, if the company succeeds, then I will succeed.”“I’d pump gas if I had to in order to support this family.” As frequent readers already know, I focus on the balance between business and life. Too many people are “overweight” to one side or the other. Fred never forgot what his first priority was – his family. He knew that he would do whatever he had to do to provide for his family. What is interesting is that such a characteristic also made him a more successful executive. People who will do whatever they need to do to support their family will also do whatever they need to do to excel in business. If you’re not willing to pump gas, you’re likely not willing to pull an all-nighter on the Johnson account, fly the red-eye to pitch the Smith account, or respond 24/7 to the needs of the Jones account.

“I don’t give a “flyin” about anybody other than the 7 people in this family.” Fred kept his head down. He never got caught up in “keeping up with the Jones”, either personally or professionally. A very dear friend of mine who was a mentor to me during my days at Aon (Mickey C – thank you) once said to me on the subject of keeping his own counsel – “Mikey (yes, he got away with calling me that), when I lay my head on my pillow, I sleep the contented sleep of someone who owes nothing to nobody.” At Equity Risk Partners, I banned the use of the phrase “Word on the street is…”.   I did not care about who was doing what to whom. As I always told my colleagues, “We play offense. Let the other guys figure out how to stop us!”

“You have to take me…warts and all.” Fred was comfortable in his own skin. He knew what he was and who he was. More importantly, he knew what he was not. Being honest with yourself gives you great freedom. He did not hide his uniqueness, he celebrated it. It became a strength because he was consistent. Family members and business colleagues crave consistency.

“He/She is a hustler.” This was the ultimate compliment from Fred. Some people are born with certain skills. Some people are blessed by God with talent that others can only dream of. But, anybody can hustle. That is just will power and determination. Fred had all the time in the world for hustlers.

“This place is a gold mine.” Fred was an optimist. He saw upside when others saw downside (more on that below). He looked for constant improvement, both in his children and his employees. The gold mines he identified were never as apparent to others. There was a line he always used with me as a child that I have often repeated to colleagues that I mentor/counsel – “I have more faith in you than you have in yourself. Until you reverse that equation, you will not maximize your potential.”   The “gold mine” to Fred was achieving your maximum outcome.

“If he is a bad person, just imagine how good you look standing next to him.” To Fred, nothing in business or life was more important than the right values (see Michael Marcon Tweets, Lunch with Mike, ½ Personal). He always approached business and life from one perspective – Act as if your mother is watching.   Early in my career, I was asked to accept a promotion that would catapult me into the upper echelons of the company. But, it would require me to work with someone whose ethics and values were universally regarded as “challenged” (it’s Lent, so I will be polite). I was worried about the repercussions of being associated with this person. I was going to turn down the job and “make a stand on principle”. That is when Fred advised me, “If he is as bad as you think he is, just imagine how good you will look standing next to him.” I took the job. I looked good.

“Surprise me.” Despite his penchant for consistency, Fred always knew he could not get stale. I lost count of how many times – ordering dinner (salad dressing, beverage, etc), on his birthday, Father’s Day, and Christmas (wish list), at the movies (popcorn or Milk Duds), buying a car (color), playing golf (course choice), his answer was, “Surprise me.” As kids, we were thrilled when we got to “pick for Dad.” Imagine how an employee(s) would feel and the creativity they would utilize if the answer to their inquiry on some thorny business issue “fork in the road” was “Surprise me”.

“They just don’t realize that this is not a crisis, it is an opportunity.” This is probably the defining quote of all of the one’s Fred said to me. One day, as we were out for a run, I could tell something was weighing on him. I asked what was going on. He proceeded to tell me that his business was embroiled in a significant litigation. His frustration was not with the lawyers. His frustration was not with the attorneys general that were suing him. His frustration was with his team. They were panicking. The “allegations” were severe. The PR was terrible. Then he said, “They just don’t realize that this is not a crisis. This is an opportunity.” He never lost his wits. He never rushed his thought process. He stayed true to his values and he systematically turned the crisis into an opportunity. The incredibly successful NYSE public company, Verisk Analytics, is a direct result of his actions on that day.

As we discussed in our last post, you can choose hope or you can choose despair.  Fred chose hope – always. What will you choose?

Surprise me.

Michael C. Marcon is the founder and Managing Member of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, founder and former CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.

 

It’s Alright

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We all know that I am a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. How big, you ask? I have been to more than 40 concerts, including one in Hyde Park in London with more than 100,000 people. For grins, when I rent a car with Sirius XM radio, I change all of the radio presets to “E Street Radio”. Bruce and his music have been the soundtrack of most of my life. In fact, the number of shows I have attended should really be added by one more – in 1978, when I was in 9th grade, one of my friend’s older sisters invited him and me to a concert featuring this guy I had never heard of. You guessed it, Bruce Springsteen. Unfortunately, about 3 hours before the show, I “mouthed off” to my Mom over some issue that I can no longer recall. She grounded me and said I could not go to the show. I remember thinking, “Boy, did I get off easy. Who cares about some concert by some guy I don’t know?” What a total dork I was back then! (I have improved modestly since)

One of the things I like most about Bruce Springsteen’s music is the hope. No matter how dark, no matter how much despair the characters have, there is always hope. Being a fundamentally optimistic person, the messages of hope always register with me. No song does this better than “Lonesome Day” from The Rising. Written in the aftermath of 9/11, “Lonesome Day” follows a character struggling with the despair and loss associated with 9/11. Yet, it is the chorus that gets to me every time – especially live in concert when 30,000 people sing it in unison and punctuate with a fist pump at the end.

It’s Alright! It’s Alright! It’s Alright! (fist pump) YEAH!

It’s Alright! It’s Alright! It’s Alright! YEAH!

It’s Alright! It’s Alright! It’s Alright! YEAH!

It’s Alright! It’s AlRiiiiiiight!

I think this is a great way to approach life and business. It is a fundamentally optimistic and hopeful choice. It does not mean that bad things won’t happen. It does not mean that you won’t have bad luck or get a bad break. It means you have a choice as to how you respond to it.

When my mother was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, she adopted a very “faithful” attitude. She would say, “It’s God’s will.” One day, we took her to meet the Bishop of Green Bay, David Ricken. We had learned that they “shared” the same patron saint, Padre Pio, of Italy. The Bishop offered to pray with my Mom. While they were meeting, the Bishop asked Mom about her diagnosis. She replied, “It’s God’s will.” He asked her, “Do you want to beat this?” “With everything I have”, she replied. His reply has always stuck with me, “Then, it’s alright to tell Him what you prefer His will to be!”

Choose hope.

Choose optimism.

As we have discussed before, your family and your employees are always watching. Your approach to adversity affects their assessment of the situation and their reaction to it. Do you give them a reason to hope or a reason to despair? Do you give them a glass full of optimism or an empty glass of disappointment? They will take their cues from you and they will not only mirror your reaction, they will magnify it throughout the family or the organization. You only get one shot to react. Once it has been magnified, it is virtually impossible to change course. That is why you must consciously choose to pursue a path of hope and optimism. You cannot fake it.

The other day, Penelope was at the house for a visit (if you don’t know who she is by now, you have to go read the prior blogs). We were playing on the floor when she fell backwards and bonked her head. It was not a big bonk, but it scared her and she started to cry. We held her and began to soothe her. We whispered “It’s alright. It’s alright. It’s alright.” She stopped crying and smiled.

Yeah.

Michael C. Marcon is the founder and Managing Member of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, founder and former CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.

I Believe

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So, I am watching Bull Durham the other night and Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) goes into his soliloquy about what he believes – “…high fiber…good scotch…I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone…”. That got me to thinking, “What do I believe?” In case you were wondering, here are some of my beliefs related to business and life:

Let’s start with what should be obvious – I believe that if you disagree with a comment on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, don’t read it. If you don’t like the values portrayed in a movie or a book or a song, don’t watch/read/listen.

I believe in more tolerance and less outrage. And, I definitely believe in less “faux outrage” (Cory Booker for you “blues”; Sean Hannity for you “reds”).

I believe we need to look at intent before we get offended at the result instead of assuming the person meant to offend.

I believe I need to be forgiven significantly more often than I need to forgive.

I believe we need to do “…a little more lookin’ out for the other guy, too.” (Not mine – Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).

I believe you should pay more for quality that will last than less for crap that won’t.

I believe the TV stations should stop all going to commercial at the same time.

I believe that, unless you are playing for real prize money, go ahead and hit another ball (That’s for you, Tony).

I believe that the pros get paid to wear logos. The Tiger Woods logo hat, with the Nike logo shirt, and the Nike logo shorts, and the Nike shoes just makes you look like a “wannabe”.

I believe bonuses are not guaranteed. Show up, work hard, and achieve your goals = base salary. Exceed your goals = bonus. Blow away your goals on a regular and sustained basis = promotion.

I believe you need to “pay your dues”.

I believe life is not fair. It is not supposed to be. What you do with the hand you’re dealt is what defines you. God decides who gets what and when. He has a plan and He knows what He is doing.

I believe dogs are better than cats.

I believe all movies should have a happy ending – the guy should get the girl and the good guys should always win. “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

I believe Bruce Springsteen should be the poet laureate of the United States.

Speaking of Bruce, I believe in a Promised Land.

I believe watching Matthew Marcon run from a dug-out to shortstop and tip his cap to me is when I was most happy and I believe becoming a dad to Keaton Cross changed my life.

I believe you should wear a suit to meet clients and you should dress up to go on a plane.

I believe you should not leave mass early, but it is OK to read the bulletin during the homily if it is boring (because I believe the priest has the responsibility not to be boring).

I believe in reading the newspaper… and magazines… and books… in print and not on a computer. Yes, there is more to carry. But, the experience makes up for it.

I believe in handwritten thank you notes and birthday cards, not texts.

I believe the commercial where the grandmother asks her “precocious granddaughter” who is working away on an iPad tablet device, “What are you doing on your computer?” and the granddaughter replies, “What’s a computer?” is obnoxious.

I believe in “real” Christmas cards and not “Shutterfly” cards. Yes, it takes longer. Use the time to think about why we are celebrating the holiday.

I believe my Mom and Dad are together in heaven and I will see them when I die.

I believe Penelope is a miracle sent to me by God at just the right time (see, He does know what He is doing).

I believe you should let your kids do their own science fair project. I want to hire people who learned how to fail and recover. I believe you should let them climb up the slide and slide down the bannister. Yup, they might break a bone or need some stiches. Because, I believe my Nonno was right – it builds character.

I believe Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are the best candy on the planet.

I believe you let your employees try new ideas and fail. Then, you let them try again. Even if you already know that the idea won’t work, ask yourself one question – “Will the outcome be fatal to the company?” If not, let them try.

I believe you celebrate failure as much as you celebrate success. Maybe more.

I believe Door County, WI is heaven on earth.

I believe Mary Marcon is a miracle sent to me by God at just the right time (see, He does know what He is doing).

I believe I am most content sitting in the back booth at PC Junction in Baileys Harbor, WI at 8:00 pm on a summer Friday night with Mary and the proprietors/good friends, Bill and Denise, just talking.

I believe sliding your hand over a freshly planed and sanded piece of woodwork created by your “ownself” is one of the best feelings in the world.

I believe St. Thomas More is the best role model for sticking to your principles and Bill Bradley is the best role model for student-athletes.

I believe we should strive to build great businesses, not just do great deals.

I believe “to whom much is given, much is expected” and that we need to pay our fair share. I also believe that the State of California needs to develop a better definition of “fair share”.

I believe all kids should have a paper route, mow lawns, rake leaves, and shovel driveways.

I believe that I will never drive a better car than when I had my 1984, metallic baby blue, Nissan 300ZX, “legendary Z car”. As the commercial said back then – IT… IS… AWESOME!

I believe that the “professionalization” of youth sports is a terrible thing. Johnny is not going to be a pro.

I believe I have been blessed beyond what I deserve – and I do not know why. I believe, one day, I will find out.

I believe there are no excuses, there are only consequences.

I believe in Hail Mary’s – lots and lots of them.

I believe the U.S. is the greatest country on the planet and a beacon of hope for the world – and Washington, DC needs to recognize that and start acting like it.

I believe in teamwork and “playing the game the right way” – make an extra pass, move the runner over, run out your flyballs.

I believe when you hit a homerun, score a touchdown, or make a “3”, you should act like you meant to do it and not like it hasn’t already been done by thousands of people before you – walk off, last play of Super Bowl, and Game 7 buzzer beaters are excepted.

What else do I believe? I BELIEVE.

Michael C. Marcon is the founder and Managing Member of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, founder and former CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.