Category Archives: Leadership

Leadership thoughts, principles and application

Becoming Referable

It’s true that success in business and in life comes down in many ways to who you know.  This applies in several ways.  First, it may mean a mentorship perspective, where knowing a successful mentor can help you avoid the proverbial landmines of personal experience while figuring out the process to success alone.  It matters who you associate with.  Robert Kiyosaki teaches that our income is the average of the five people with whom we associate most often.  And, it matters when building a business community, because a new friend can connect you to their friends.

You want to make sure that people want to make that critical introduction of YOU to the people they know.  How can you help inspire them to do so?  By becoming REFERABLE.  Here are 7 key points to get you started!

1.  Always be looking for opportunities to expand your network.   If you aren’t meeting people, you won’t know anyone who WOULD refer you!  To become referable, keep making new friends.  We attract what we focus on.  If you have a goal of connecting with people, you will notice those golden opportunities when they present themselves.  Be on the lookout for clubs and associations that create opportunities to make connections, such as the local Rotary Club, Toastmasters, or various Meetup groups in your area.

2. Have character and integrity.  The minute you show yourself to be untrustworthy, no one of character will refer you.  They will point you out to their friends, but only as a warning.  “Don’t go near that guy,” they will say ominously.  “He cheated me out of a business deal.”  Some guys so crooked you could screw them in the ground.  A small business owner operates from a base of profit motive and a commitment to provide a valuable service or product. A business owner communicates truth using direct and indirect means. You reveal your commitment to honesty when you pay your company bills and employees. When you file taxes, report to your investors and make commitments to your customers, you communicate virtue. Looked at from another angle, failing to meet your corporate responsibilities establishes a climate of mistrust and potential illegality.  Don’t cook the books, cheat on your taxes, gossip about people, break your word, neglect a commitment, or speak negatively about others when they aren’t present to defend themselves.  Never let it be said of you, “Watch out for that person.”  Make sure that you carry yourself with such a high degree of integrity that people would do a business deal on a handshake with you.

3. Be interested in the other person and their job and company.  We naturally tend to like people who like us.  Maybe we think they’ve got good taste!  Joking aside, if you have a meeting with someone, show your interest in them by following up in a punctual timeframe.  After you’ve made a new business contact, make sure within a week or two that you’ve called them to touch base.  If the contact is a former client or just someone you’ve talked to before, now might be the perfect time to ask for a referral. If it’s a prospect you’re calling, maybe you can set up an appointment to have coffee and find out if their plans might include using your services.  Take an interest in people and what’s going on in their lives.  For example, if a client mentioned they were working on an important project, give them a personal call to check in and see how the project is going.  If you are working with them, always ask if there is anything more you can do to serve them and their business.  If you are fortunate enough to have had business referred to you, call the person who referred the business and thank them!  Take the time to try to learn more about their current activities so you can refer business to them.  When you take an interest in helping others, kind deeds tend to circle back to us.

4.  Track who you meet.  When you meet someone for the first time, take a second to jot down any important information that they brought up in the conversation.  When I meet people, after the conversation is finished and I walk away, if I have their business card I like to pause for a second and jot notes on the back of it about our conversation.  If I caught family information, career info, personal hobbies, or even a reminder of how and where we met, it will help me to show a sincere interest in them when I phone back.  If they don’t use business cards, take a minute and jot some notes in your cellphone about them.  It’s not only valuable to do this for the follow up, but for the long-term relationship.  If they mentioned their birthday or anniversary date, make a note of that!  How amazing would it be to send them a note of congratulation on their birthday or anniversary.  It’s so rare that you will stand out from the crowd.  A good habit is to list  people to stay in touch with. Include anyone who has given you business in the last 12 monthsas well as any other prospects you’ve connected with recently. Send them cards on the next holiday.

5.  Look sharp!  If you want people to refer you to others, be presentable.  Dress in a way that would make them feel proud to introduce you to the most important people in their lives, to the people in their inner circle.  Don’t dress like your peers; dress like the people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish.  It’s amazing how simple grooming and basic hygiene can be missed, but if you want people to refer you, you had better shower, shave, brush your team, polish your shoes, and remove the dog hair!  Look sharp to become sharp.

6.  Practice excellent people skills.  Simply be courteous toward everyone whose path you cross.  Four basic principles of people skills and integrity are:  a, Show up on time.  b. Do what you say.  c. Finish what you start.  d. Say please and thank you.  While these may seem basic, I am always shocked when I meet grown men and women who literally fail at these four things on a regular basis.  You don’t have to sound like a fake news caster and sound “polished” to have people skills; you just to see the inherent value and worth in all people and treat them accordingly.

7. Have a positive attitude! Nobody wants to even be around someone who has a bad attitude, much less network with them. If you want to be referable, be pleasant and friendly.  If you light up the room when you walk out, I am talking to you right now!  Start learning to smile more often.  See the good in each person and each situation.  When problems arise, try to seek the solution to the problem rather than moaning and complaining that something isn’t going right.  Choose to laugh and shrug off the minor inconveniences of the day.  The people who might want to refer you are fighting their own battle with the day.  Aspire to be the “friction free” team mate who shows respect for everyone on the court.  If you lift people’s spirits when you are around them, you are on the fast-track to becoming referable!

Apply these seven principles every day, and the people in your business and your life will refer you.  Keep learning, growing and getting referred!

God Bless, Tim Marks


Stop Correcting People!

Henry Ford wisely said, “Don’t find fault.  Find a remedy.”  Why do people feel the need to point out other people’s mistakes?  Well, it could be they genuinely want the other person to improve.  It could be that they want to help.  Or it could be that they are trying to knock the other person down a few pegs to themselves feel powerful in comparison. shares, “Criticism is futile, because it puts a person on the defensive and causes him to justify himself.  Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s pride and arouses resentment.  Criticism is vain, because in judging others, we regard ourselves as more righteous than they.”

For some people, their self-esteem and identity is tied to “being right” and “being knowledgeable”.  They feel that they are a worthwhile person if they are correct, and more importantly, if other people know it.  If you derive your self-esteem from being right… why?  Why is that your source of self-esteem?  Do you feel embarrassed being wrong or making a mistake?  Does that seem rational to you?  Surely you must realize that you can’t be right all of the time.  You only need to be right 51% of the time and you would make a billion dollars on the stock market this year!  If someone was right all the time, they’d have easily developed the cure for cancer, brought peace to the Middle East, and found a solution to world hunger.  Since these haven’t been accomplished, you may want to lower your estimation of yourself being “all knowing” a notch, Scooter.  Again, only one man ever was, and no one ever will be again.  Compulsively correcting people is purely an ego game, and as shares, “One day, you will come to an understanding that in a pretentious game of gratifying your ego, you have auctioned the inner beauty of your soul.”

I have a family member whom I love very much who is, and has always been, right about everything (in their eyes).  It’s a sad condition because it holds him back from learning.  Why would someone bother learning when they think they already know everything?  It might be true we have some expertise in a certain area, but imagine the vast ocean of knowledge we don’t have!  Also, is it possible that our suggestion is correct, but someone else’s idea might also have merit?  There might be two different solutions to the same problem.  2+2 equals 4, but so does 1+3.  And even if we are correct, remember that no one wants to hear about it if we come across as an arrogant know-it-all!  (No one… except you!)

The world is filled with people who will tell you what you do wrong.  Your friends, family and colleagues are constantly told by everyone around them what they do wrong!  Even if your heart is genuinely in a good place and you want to help the other person by correcting them, may I suggest you reconsider?  As Dale Carnegie wrote, “When we are wrong, we may admit it to ourselves.  And if we are handled gently and tactfully, we may admit it to others and even take pride in our frankness and broad-mindedness.  But not if someone else is trying to ram the unpalatable fact down our esophagus.”

If someone is about to make a tiny mistake, to consider letting them know gently.  Please don’t come across as a know-it-all.  You may want to say, “I could be wrong, but have you considered this?  Perhaps there is another way of looking at this problem.”  Or, “This is only my opinion, and I certainly am not an expert, but what about this option?”  Using language like that leaves a back door for their ego to remain intact.  Throw a little uncertainty into your language in order to gently introduce a suggestion.  You may also try getting their permission to offer a suggestion.  Perhaps something like, “Bob, if I noticed something I felt could really help you, do I have your permission to offer a little tip?”  By getting their permission first, they are probably more open to hearing what you have to say.  I learned from my mentor it matters less to the other person whether you are right; it matters if their ego and feelings are intact.

Finally, stop yourself and ask, “Who am I to criticize this other man?”  Consider all the mistakes you have made throughout your life.  It can be pretty easy to feel self-righteous when considering our strengths to another, but what about our flaws compared to their flaws?  In John 8:9 Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  I know all of my flaws. Who am I to judge another man?  At this point, you may be wondering, “He, wait a minute… is Tim judging me or trying to tear me down?” or “Is Tim trying to teach me people skills?”  Actually, I’m trying to show you we all make these common mistakes and we all have value that we and others may not yet see.

Now, naysayers will point out avoiding correcting people doesn’t count for landing airplanes, brain surgery or running a nuclear power plant.  Of course there are times when you point out a mistake!  If your spouse is driving the car and about to run a red light or crash into someone, don’t AVOID pointing it out in order to dogmatically follow this principle.  Use discretion.  However, the three extreme examples I just gave are situations where a person is in mortal danger.  99.9% of the time we AREN’T in mortal danger, so the exception won’t apply most of the time!  You still need to avoid criticism most of the time!

Fortunately, even a blunt choleric like myself can soften his edges, develop some empathy, and share mentorship and advice from a place of serving rather than correcting.  To quote from Bringing Out the Best in People, author Alan Loy McGinnis said, “Good managers and good teachers, on the other hand, do not waste much time doing postmortems on the failures of their people.  Instead they look for strengths that others have overlooked and ways to encourage the gifts in their group.”  If you want to become a better leader, I’d encourage you to bite your tongue when you feel you are about to criticize, and instead, point out what someone has done correctly.

God Bless, Tim Marks

Viking Leadership

Now if you have read my book, Voyage of a Viking, then you already know that there was more to these Norse warriors than the looting and pillaging helmeted guys we so often see in the movies. In fact, while there definitely were plenty of coastal raids, there were a lot more things that the Vikings did well – things modern leaders can learn from.

The more I looked over these “Viking Laws” the more I liked them, and I started thinking of some of the principles that great leaders employ as they seek to grow their businesses and endeavors.

Let’s take a few minutes to learn something from our Viking brothers

The Viking Laws

1. Be Brave and Aggressive: Be direct, Grab all opportunities – In other words, don’t be afraid to take chances. You do have to do the work to gain success, it doesn’t come to those who just sit around. What are you waiting for? The perfect time never comes.  So don’t be a whiner – instead take the Viking way, get out there and do something! It might get hard along the way (in fact, it probably will) but as the great leader Winston Churchill once said, “If you are going through Hell, keep moving!”

2. Be Prepared: Keep your weapons in good condition, Keep in shape, Choose good battle comrades – Of course, if you are going to get out there and do something you ought to be prepared. Have your weapons (products, information, tools, business cards) ready. Keep in shape mentally through reading great books and taking time to focus on personal growth.  Find people like that to be your “battle comrades” as you continue along your success journey.

3. Be a Good Merchant: Find out what the market needs, Don’t make promises you can’t keep – A great leader is out to meet needs and shows integrity and character in what he or she does. John Wooden, an amazing leader on and off the basketball court, taught his players a lot more than the game. He underscored three basic life rules – never lie, never cheat, and never steal. Living by these three simple things will assure that you are a leader people can trust.

4. Keep the Camp Tidy – This is where I have to break from my Viking comrades and say, “Nope, make a mess!”  Sometimes leadership is messy business, and to get things done you have to wade in and get your hands dirty (see Law 1). If you try to put together the perfect, tidy conditions before you get going, you will never go anywhere. Don’t fear the mess and don’t wimp out.

Now, I’m not saying just charge in a without any care, shattering anything and anyone in your way. Instead, be honest and work on yourself rather than looking around and trying to figure out what is wrong with the world, and encourage your battle comrades to do the same. That’s the only way you will grow (and the camp will stay relatively tidy).

For all that might be said about the Vikings, they certainly knew how to get things done. So grab up your own ax and helmet and start to put these laws into practice in your business. You might be surprised what successes await when you begin leading the Viking way.

Have you applied any of the Viking Laws to your business or other endeavors?

God Bless, Tim Marks

DO THIS! – Important Tools for Your Success Journey

A few weeks ago I pointed out some things I’ve learned to avoid along the road to success. Through mentoring with my good friend, Orrin Woodward, I’ve learned to define and believe in my dreams, get rid of negative expectations and negative beliefs, pursue character and get out of my comfort zone. Of course, those aren’t the only keys to navigating the journey of success, so here are a few more tools for the road.

Get Rid of a Wrong View of Success

What good is trying to move on along the road to success if you don’t even know what success really is? Most people assume success can be measured by something you accomplish or own, but they would be wrong. Success, real success, doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from the inside.

This is where it’s important to apply the Define, Learn, Do principle. That starts with thinking about what you truly want when it comes to success, and asking yourself what it will give you that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Keep asking that question so you can keep finding answers that move you along the road.

The truth of the matter is that we all ultimately want to feel good about ourselves, and we don’t have to get stuff or accomplish things to do so. True success always comes from the inside.

Don’t settle for Mediocrity

If real success comes from the inside, then you can change whenever you want through working on your personal mental fitness. Success isn’t what you thought it was, so don’t settle for “good enough.” Working on inward success doesn’t have to be a drag, it can be fun and enjoyable.

Build Trust (in yourself and the process toward success)

It’s essential that you trust the process.  Once you’ve started along the road to real success, you don’t have to know exactly how it’s all going to work out. In fact, it’s impossible to know all the ins and outs of the success journey.

Have Passion

What you do need to know is what you are passionate about. Follow your highest excitement, seek some counsel and have some trust in yourself, because ultimately you are the only one who can discover the passions that will spur you along the road to success.

The most successful people are those who are passionate about what they do. Now, there are people out there that don’t love what they do and are successful financially but dying on the inside. That’s because money doesn’t make you happy.

Being successful is not about making a lot of money, it’s about doing what you love, what you are passionate about, and doing what God has called you to do. The funny thing is that when you do something you love and get really good at it, the money tends to follow.

As you consider the road to real success, trusting yourself and following your passions may seem a overwhelming, even scary. That’s the time to take action – it’s the best way to conquer fear and build confidence. As soon as you do, you’ll begin accumulating experience and knowledge and soon find yourself moving on along your success journey.

How have you learned to define real success? Has discovering your passions been an important tool on your personal success journey?

God Bless, Tim Marks

Develop Mental Toughness

Whether you are an athlete on the gridiron or in the boardroom, a certain quality is always found in the guys who remain standing when the storm winds blow.  When rejection hits these guys it bounces off them like spitballs off of a battleship.  They chuckle at groundless criticism.  They bounce back quickly from setbacks.  They feel energized to try even harder after a defeat.  That special quality these warriors are showing is something called “mental toughness”.  Wikipedia defines this as “a term commonly used by coaches, sport psychologists, sport commentators, and business leaders – generally describes a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances (such as difficult training or difficult competitive situations in games) and emerge without losing confidence.” (Emphasis added.)

Each of us will receive a gut shot at some point in our lives that knocks the wind right out of us.  It’s not a matter of whether you will be struck by disaster, but when.  In my first book, Voyage of a Viking, I describe in detail many of the challenges I faced through my life.  I’ve faced my storms and I know that I have more storms awaiting me.  I also know that you do as well.  Rather than sitting around moaning and complaining when we are being pelted by chunks of hail the size of golf balls, we can put on a suit of armor to deflect whatever life throws at us.  That suit of armor is your mental toughness.

You can’t measure mental toughness; you measure its effect.  You can’t measure what’s going on inside a leaders head, but you sure can measure their behavior!  You see it when they lose their biggest customer one month, and it ticks them off just enough to go smash a sales record the next month.    You can see mental toughness when someone is running a marathon and they are gasping for breath, and the only thing keeping them putting one painful footstep in front of the next is their strength of will.  You see it when someone is totally exhausted, yet they keep throwing hundreds of shots into the basketball hoop to perfect their free throw (like my awesome daughter Mya!).  In fact, Mya had to make 1000 free throws; in order to reach that goal, she had to shoot a couple of thousand.   She wanted to quit many times during that experience, but she had committed to a number of people that she would reach her goal.  It’s amazing how a twelve year old girl will follow through on her committment more effectively than most adults.  Mental toughness is courage in action.  When you’ve got it, you cope better than your opponents with the demands you face.

How do we develop mental toughness?  Here are a few principles to get you started:

Principle #1: Realize Mental Toughness Can Be Developed.

Some people might be born with a certain personality, like a “Choleric” or “D” personality type, and maybe this personality type handles adversity a little more effectively than others.  But that’s not always the case, and either way, anyone can develop this side of their personality.  Don’t cop out on yourself by selling yourself any victim thinking, like “That’s just the way I am.”  Brothers and sisters, you can CHANGE.  How do you build mental toughness?  The same way you build muscles in the gym: by pushing yourself to new limits and increasing the pressure or resistance you are pushing against.

Principle #2: Mental Toughness in the Gym Correlates to Mental Toughness in life.

The gym is the ultimate proving ground for “tough guys” and “tough gals”.  You really find out what you’re made of when you’re doing hack squats or leg extensions.  Most people get into the gym, start doing bicep curls, and as soon as it starts to get uncomfortable, they say, “Okay, I’ve done enough for now,” and they stop exercising.  This is actually the exact wrong thing to do, if your goal is to develop your muscles.  You see, when it starts to hurt, that’s the lactic acid burn in your muscles screaming, “Great job! Keep going!  You’re making progress!”  But when most people start to feel discomfort they choose to ease off.

You don’t become successful at anything by letting your foot off of the gas pedal when the going gets tough.  This includes the gym, your marriage, and your business.  When it hurts to do even one more rep of an exercise, that’s when the real muscle development starts!  (By the way, I’m not talking about pushing through pain when you are actually injured; I’m referring to the normal discomfort we feel when we are tearing down our muscles during a workout.)  If you throw in the towel on the bench press, you train your brain to quit when things get tough.  When you force yourself to keep pushing the weight even when you want to give up, you are training your brain to keep pushing.

Principle #3: Champions Fall in Love with Discomfort

Winners know that the path to success is steep and rocky, and the path to defeat is like a sign pointing at a waterslide that says, “Slippery, Fun and Easy to Reach the Bottom in a Jiffy!”  Bad habits are easy to slip into, like a warm bed when you’re exhausted.  Good habits are pretty much guaranteed to feel tough for most people because you end up denying yourself luxuries and pleasures. You must learn to do what is uncomfortable for you. To develop the psychological edge, you must have extreme discipline to give up the comfort zone that you train and live in. Delaying immediate satisfaction is the ultimate sacrifice that all warriors must choose.

 Become a champion and develop mental toughness in your business, your health, your relationships and in life!

God Bless, Tim Marks


Capping Off The Symphony of Success

Recently, I was thinking through the final resolution in Orrin Woodward’s book, Resolved. If you’re one of the many people who are taking the Mental Fitness Challenge, then you’ve probably spent the last several weeks reading through Resolved and maybe have even finished it – but just in case you haven’t here is what the final resolution says:

Resolved: To reverse the current decline in my field of mastery because I know that a true legacy leaves the world a better place than when I found it.

Orrin Woodward calls Legacy “capping off the symphony of success.” I think most of us would desire to live up to that resolution, but maybe don’t really know how to do it, or where to start.

You see, Legacy is not really about all the things we do, whether we build a successful business or work hard as an engineer or manager or anything else. That’s not necessarily a legacy, though it may be part of it. People will remember more about who we are and what we gave, what we left behind that benefits society; than about what work we did and what things we owned. Legacy is all about what you leave behind for others.

Legacy and LibertyRoman Ruins in the UK picture

Legacy should be the protector of liberty. In Resolved, Orrin writes about the three types of liberty we long for and still have in this country, at least to some degree:

1. Spiritual Liberty
2. Political Liberty
3. Economic Liberty

In the absence of these liberties, our country will continue in decline until – like the ancient Roman Empire – it collapses on itself. Legacy is a defense against that end.

So what can we do?

One place to start is in training up the next generation to be defenders of these three crucial liberties. Teach the kids in your life to thoughtfully invest themselves in God’s work, both locally and internationally. Encourage them to uphold the rule of law and work towards reform in areas where government is weak. Teach kids about money now so they don’t go broke later. Introduce them to English preacher John Wesley’s famous teaching on money, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”

And of course, these aren’t just good lessons for kids. We all should be willing to evaluate our lives and ask the question, “What will I do to create and preserve my legacy and the legacy of my generation?”

The west has a great need for some folks that not only want to leave a legacy but that will WORK to leave a legacy.

I hope you join us.

What are you doing to leave a legacy?

God Bless, Tim Marks

AVOID THIS! – Tripping Points in Community Building

In the years that I’ve worked alongside and mentored with Orrin Woodward and the other LIFE founders, I’ve learned a lot about being a leader in the field of community building. Working with people and building communities is exciting – especially when you have a great tool like the Mental Fitness Challenge – and I love the many opportunities I have to sit down with others along this journey and share things I’ve learned along the way.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that there are many tripping points that a community builder has to watch out for. Even in one of the most exciting and fast growing industries, it doesn’t take much to get off track. So here are a few things I’ve picked up that a community builder should be on the lookout for.
Tripping Hazard

Lack of A Dream

(or of belief in it)

The number one thing that holds most people back is not having a dream. You have to get a clear image in your mind’s eye about what success means to you. I’m not talking about having tons of money, five cars, and a huge house somewhere expensive. I’m talking about the life that you truly want to live. How would you feel if you already had all of that? What would you want then? The answer to those questions will help to reveal your passion and dream for your life.

Negative Expectations

We’ve been conditioned to talk negatively to ourselves all day long. Some people just don’t believe in affirmations, and even go around telling themselves that they aren’t good enough, can’t accomplish anything, and that nothing is really worth doing anyway.

Try saying those things to yourself right now and see how you feel. Negative expectations drag you down, but positive expectations will make good things happen. After all, you don’t drown by falling in the water, you drown by staying there…. and not knowing how to swim!!

Negative Beliefs

Negative expectations quickly lead into negative beliefs – and this is a universal problem. An even bigger issue is that most people like their negative beliefs, because they have benefits, they feel familiar and many people think they are “realistic”. These people haven’t realized that letting go of these negative beliefs is the only real way to move ahead. By continuing to accept the negative, many with great potential will find themselves trapped for years!

Everyone has their own set of negative beliefs. Figure out what yours are and start letting them go.

Waiting for Someone Else to Make It

There’s no one to wait on . You alone are responsible for not only the business success you have, but also how much you enjoy life right now. No one else can go after your goals for you. Develop an attitude that says:

“I will pursue and achieve my goals with or without my coach or mentor, my team, my spouse’s support, my friends, my family or anyone else.”

Of course, if all these folks support us it’s certainly easier! And I’m not saying we shouldn’t take advice and heed good counsel. But it’s time to stop hanging around waiting for someone else before we pursue our dreams.


It doesn’t matter how much you say it, your team will know your little character flaws, even if you don’t. Do you say things like, “I’m moving on. I will be on time. I’ll call you back.” but don’t follow through with it?

Watch out! That’s a character problem and it will hurt your community.

Being Comfortable

Familiarity holds everyone back. Feeling like you’re safe and comfortable is nice, but it ultimately keeps you stuck. It’s nowhere near as nice as when you take action, face your fears, and build a life that you truly desire. Being uncomfortable when you do something new is a part of the game and is really just a sign that you’re changing and making progress.

When ancient Greek armies traveled across the sea to do battle, the first thing they would do after landing was to burn the boats, leaving them stranded. With no way to make it home but victory, the resolve of the soldiers was solid.

If you have a goal, but are afraid to commit, force yourself into action by burning the ships that keep you comfortable where you are. Define and believe in your dream, get rid of negative expectations and the negative beliefs they inspire, pursue consistent character and go at it! Avoiding these tripping points will speed you along your way to successful community building.

Have you encountered these tripping points? What strategies have you used to avoid and overcome them?

God Bless, Tim Marks

“Voyage of A Viking” Reveiw

Voyage of a Viking book coverMany thanks to Oliver DeMille for his kind review of my new book, Voyage of a Viking.


Years ago I gave a speech at a business convention. I’ve done a lot of these, so I don’t remember every detail or venue, but several really stand out as memorable. On this occasion, the big arena had many thousands of people, but due to construction there was only way to the stage and we had to get there early and sit on the wing of the temporary stadium stage with all the speakers for that session. A construction boss walked us all through together to ensure that we were safe and avoided the danger areas.

This turned out to be a real blessing to me, because the speaker who shared the session with me changed my life. He spoke just after me, and because of the special construction circumstances I had to stay after I spoke and listen to what he had to say. I think if I’d had been scheduled after him I would have been busy thinking about my own speech and not listened closely to his message. Thankfully, I was highly motivated after my speech, and I listened carefully to every word he said.

He started by saying that nearly all his important lessons in life had come from his struggles, failures, mistakes or losses. He was a fan of golf, and talked about how every golf mistake he made taught him how to be a better golfer. He related this to life and business losses, and discussed at length how he was taught in school to avoid mistakes and focus on the lessons of success—but how real life had taught him exactly the opposite.

It was a moving speech. He had us all pencil out our 5 biggest losses and mistakes in life, and then helped us brainstorm at least three major lessons we should have learned from each. That’s fifteen top lessons, and he assured us that these lessons were some of the things we most need to achieve our goals in life. I was mesmerized, instructed, and moved. The speaker was right: my fifteen lessons have been invaluable to me.
I went away deeply touched by this speech. I have seldom listened to a speech or read a book that was so genuine, so real, so deep, and so powerful. Until today.

Today I read a book that struck me the same way this speech did. Voyage of a Viking by Tim Marks is a must read for anyone who cares about success and leadership. It will apply to moms, dads, mentors, professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and everyone else. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. I read the book straight through from the beginning to the end.

I was touched, moved, motivated, instructed. I cried. I read quotes to my wife, and later to two of my kids. I found myself taking notes about my own life, and making plans to be better. This book is incredibly real, genuine, and powerful.

Marks admits that not everything in Viking history should be emulated, but he emphasizes how much we can learn from the positive Viking traits, including such things as yearning for freedom, being courageous explorers and connecting communities. He teaches how the name for the modern Bluetooth comes from the Viking king “Bluetooth” Gormsson of AD 958, a great builder of bridges (literally and figuratively) between communities. This concept of bridge-building is still much needed in all facets of modern leadership.

Marks shows how another Viking trait worthy of emulation is bullheadedness, which combines initiative and innovation with tenacity and ingenuity. Together these form the base of the great entrepreneurial values—they are also the de facto values of the great free societies in history.

One of the most moving things in this book is Marks’ view of what it means to be an adult, a leader, and a man. In many ways this reminds me of one of my favorite authors—Louis L’Amour. Some prestigious universities were criticized a few years back when they began using L’Amour texts in great literature courses, but this didn’t surprise me. Some of his works are, in fact, truly great.

As a youth, one of my favorite pastimes was reading L’Amour. My dad was a school teacher by trade, and my mom was an English teacher for both high school and college, but our family ran a farm with croplands as well as cattle, sheep, horses and other animals, and a lot of my non-school time was spent working with my dad and brothers on the farm.

In later years, after I became an author, my brothers made it a standing joke to laugh about how often they’d be in the middle of a farm project (hauling hay, moving wheat into bins, building fences, shearing sheep, exercising the horses, etc.) only to notice that somehow I’d slipped away from the work and was nowhere to be found—I was nearly always high on haystack in one of the barns reading books by L’Amour or some other author. Marks’ Voyage of a Viking book would have fit right in.

This is a book about life, what it means to live a good one, and how all of us have to overcome our challenges if we want to make a positive difference in the world. In my book The Student Whisperer, which I wrote with Tiffany Earl, I wrote about the “desert” or “wilderness” that all leaders must pass through on the path to any success, but I have never seen it more effectively described than in Voyage of a Viking. This alone is worth the price of the book.

But there is so much more. Marks’ thesis sums up what this book, and in fact all success in life, is all about: “Define what you want, learn from someone who has gone before you, and then do it for the glory of God.” Right on. It is full of profound gems. For example: “Being humble doesn’t mean you think less of yourself—it means you think of yourself less,” and “We can judge how good we are as students by how fast we implement our mentor’s advice.”

Perhaps the most powerful thing about this excellent book, as I mentioned earlier, is that it is one of those rare contributions to success literature that shows how our losses, struggles, setbacks, mistakes, and challenges are some of our most important teachers and mentors. A lot of books tell us to make lemonade out of lemons or see the silver lining in things, but this book shows us how this works—in real life, in the face of real obstacles, in our own experiences. As such, it is literally a must read.

Leadership is about wisdom, and Voyage of a Viking is a profoundly wise book. There a few wisdom books every leader simply must read, like Corrie Ten Boom’s Tramp for the Lord, Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, or L’Amour’s The Last of the Breed. And, of course, there are a few truly wise business books, such as The Radical Leap by Steve Farber, Good to Great by Jim Collins, Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis, Johnson’s and Blanchard’s Who Moved My Cheese?, among others. And who can forget Goleman’s Primal Leadership, or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey? Tim Marks’ Voyage of a Viking fits right in to this list.

As Marks himself says about this book: “This is a no-holds-barred discussion on the speed of the leader determining the speed of the group.” This book is fun. It is about finding yourself as a leader by dedicating your life to serving others, and it is about the adage, as articulated in the foreword by Orrin Woodward, that example in leadership isn’t the main thing, it’s everything.

I’m still applying those 15 lessons I penciled out years ago as I listened just off stage, and I know that many years in the future I’ll still be re-reading and applying the things I learned today in Voyage of a Viking. It’s a truly great book. So do yourself a favor and don’t miss out on this great contribution to leadership!

Oliver DeMille is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education, Leadership Education, The Student Whisperer, The Coming Aristocracy, Freedom Shift, and other books on freedom and leadership.


To read DeMille’s review of Viking on and to add your own, click here.

God Bless, Tim Marks

Lessons off the Basketball Court – Part 2

For most college basketball fans tonight is the greatest game of the season. At the end of the night a new national champion will be crowned. Legendary coach John Wooden celebrated a record 16 such victories with his UCLA Bruins. But before any buzzer sounded or a ball was tipped to begin the game, Wooden taught his players something infinitely more important than the skills that would lead them to championships time and time again. He introduced them to the code his father had passed on to him, a simple Seven Point Creed to live by.

Here it is…Lessons off the basketball court picture

Be true to your self.
Make each day your masterpiece.
Help others.
Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
Make friendship a fine art.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

I’ve already shared some thoughts on that first one, Be true to yourself, so let’s take a look at a couple more.

Make each day your masterpiece.

In other words, how would you spend today if your entire life would be judged by this one day? If you knew that tonight at  twelve o’clock you were going to have a heart attack and die, how would you live? What would you do?

For most of us, just the idea of our last day brings up other questions – What would I do? Who would I spend time with? What would I appreciate the most? How would I treat people? How would I plan my day?

These are all questions to ask if you want to make each day a masterpiece, especially that last one – How do I plan my day? The reality is that most people don’t plan their day. In fact, most folks in North America spend more time planning their wedding than they do planning to work on their marriage every day.

Zig Zigler has a great quote: “Live your day by the clock and your life with a vision.

Live your day by the clock – be on time for things, respect others time and your own.
Live your live with a vision – go after a vision of what you want your life to be like. What do you want to do? What do you want to be?

Plan your day and plan to make each day your masterpiece.

Help others. This was John Wooden’s dad’s third point.

To really help others we need to learn to love others. To learn to love others we need to learn about people. There is a great book called Encouragement, The Key to Caring by Lawrence Crabb. If you’ve not read it I highly recommend that you do.

Now, I have a reputation of being a Viking, though I’m not really that way anymore. I try to show my family especially that I’m not the way that I used to be. One way to do this is by modeling for my children a willingness to help other people. Whether that’s stopping to help out the guy who’s tire blew out on the side of the road or serving in our church, it’s important for me to set the example for my family.

Helping others doesn’t stop with strangers, though. Help those that are close to you. So many husbands neglect their families for the sake of work, not realizing that their wives and kids are starving for love at home. So many wives run from meetings to sports events to church functions, so caught up with being busy with the kids that they neglect their husbands. Help the strangers stranded on the side of the road, but don’t forget to help those closest to you too.

God Bless, Tim Marks

Lessons off the Basketball Court – John Wooden’s Seven Point Creed

This time of year, many people are filling out tournament brackets and focusing on the game of basketball as the NCAA March Madness tournament continues. Each year there are wonderful players and coaches showcased as their teams battle for a spot in the Elite Eight or Final Four.

John Wooden photoThere is a lot to be learned from sports figures, particularly coaches.

Wooden is one of my favorite leaders of all time, but the qualities that made him so were developed well before the UCLA Bruins won their first National Title.  He began working on his mental fitness at a young age. When John Wooden graduated from grammar school, his dad, Joshua Wooden, gave him the Seven Point Creed. And from what I’ve read and heard, he passed this creed along to all his students and players.

Be true to yourself
Make each day your masterpiece.
Help others.
Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
Make friendship a fine art.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Let’s unpack these a bit.

Be true to yourself

According to Wikipedia, to be true to yourself means to act in accordance with who you are and what you believe. That’s pretty accurate, but it forces us to ask the questions, “Who am I?” and “What do I believe?” Many people can’t even begin to be true to themselves because they don’t know the answers to those questions.

This leads to an even more basic question, “What is truth?” Of course, answering it isn’t so simple. Some might offer a definition like this one: Truth is that which conforms to reality, fact, or your actuality. But this definition doesn’t really define truth at all.

It is a dangerous thing to just say, “I can be true to myself” while thinking, “I can change my definition of truth if I don’t like it.” I’ve watched people try to do that, and it has damaged their lives. Many however, still hold to the belief that truth is changeable.

A recent Barna Research Group survey asked the question, “Is there absolute Truth?” Sixty-six percent of adults responded that they believe that “there is no such thing as absolute truth; different people can define truth in conflicting ways and still be correct.” This might sound good until it’s applied to an example. What about murder? If my truth is that it’s okay to kill others, but you think killing is wrong, you don’t want to be around when my truth collides with yours.

Now you might be thinking, “Tim, that’s not a good example. Nobody really believes that killing people is okay.” But more than four thousand times a day in our country, someone acts on that very belief.

“Truth is whatever you believe.”

“There is no absolute truth.”

“If there were such a thing as absolute truth, how could we know what it is?”

“People who believe in absolute truth are dangerous.”

As you can see from the above statements, the fact is that most people are confused about truth. And how can you be true to yourself, if you don’t understand what truth is? Of course, the standard that I look to for absolute unchanging truth is the Bible. Throughout history, even those who have not embraced the message of the Bible have recognized the importance of the moral truths found in the Ten Commandments. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not lie. Our laws are based on these truths.

Coach Wooden recognized the need for a standard as well, and set up certain principles for his players. These principles were not changeable no matter what the situation. When one of his top players showed up with facial hair (which Wooden didn’t allow) and refused to shave, Wooden responded, “We are going to miss you.”

Before you can be true to yourself, you have to know who you are. Before you can know who you are, you must understand what truth is. What is the standard? What is it that you believe? Most people will never dare to ask these questions, but those who rise to the challenge will begin to develop the mental fitness and character that Coach Wooden exhibited.

Know what you believe and know why you believe it. Let truth determine the moral standards of your life. Then hold yourself to the standard and be true to yourself.

God Bless, Tim Marks

Live on Results Food

Voya of a Viking bookHard work and consistent effort are important parts of success, but they are nothing without results. At some point a winner has to stop being satisfied with “activity food” and start craving “results food.” I examine with this idea in my new book, “The Voyage of a Viking,” due out in April. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

God Bless, Tim Marks

At the heart of winning comes a hunger to succeed. Something inside us craves a big victory. There has to be a gnawing, aching feeling in your gut that things must be made right for us to feel content, and that we’ll get out there and “do what it takes”. This is a pretty noble feeling and I applaud people with the guts to try. But trying is not enough.


I once heard about a motivational speaker who invited an audience member up onto the stage to help him demonstrate a point. On the stage was a fold-up chair. The motivational speaker pointed to it and asked the volunteer to “try to pick up the chair.” The man looked puzzled at the request, because this seemed like a pretty easy request! The man reached over and picked up the chair.


The motivational speaker said “No, no, no, I’d like you to try to pick up the chair. Don’t pick it up; I want you to only try to pick it up.”
Confused, the man picked up the chair again, and once again the speaker said, laughing, “No! Don’t pick up the chair; just try to pick up the chair. You keep doing it wrong! You keep picking it up! I want you to just try to pick it up!”


This went back and forth a few more times with the volunteer getting increasingly confused and frustrated. Finally, the motivational speaker said: “To quote Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back, ‘Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.’”


Missing a goal hurts inside. If someone has a gnawing aching feeling in their gut that demands that they succeed, the pain is too great to ignore. We must feast on some sort of food to try to get rid of that pain. But the type of food that satisfies us is a big key to what happens next. You see, if we just simply “try hard” to reach our goal, if we feel ok about running around, only being busy, then we are attempting to satisfy ourselves with what I call “activity food.”


A winner eventually loses his appetite for mere “activity food.” There comes a point when people who become successful find that “activity food” starts to taste pretty bland; it lacks any nutritional value in the diet of achievement. We have to reach a point where we get sick and tired of simply working hard, and getting nothing to show for our effort. We are on the path to success when we are no longer satisfied with “activity food”; but instead we crave “results food.”


Robert Fritz said, “All too often people fail to focus their choices upon results and therefore their choices are ineffective. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” These are great words of wisdom. We have to decide to be satisfied, not just with effort, but with results.