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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

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.

Character

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 Amazon.com 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

Follow a Great Leader

There is no substitute for following a great leader who has vision, results, and humility. My mentor, Orrin Woodward, is a great example of this.

As you are growing in life, you want to learn from those who have developed a huge vision and are working to make it happen, because a leader has got to have vision and he has got to be taking people with him. One of the biggest things that I see in Orrin Woodward is just that – he is vision driven. The great leader focused on vision is the person to learn from.

But how do you find somebody like that? That’s where it can become very difficult. Try to learn from a leader who has what you want in most areas of their life. You might find someone who has great results in one area, and think, “Man, this guy has great leadership qualities, he can inspire people. People want to follow him.”

When you look again though, you might notice that he’s been divorced forty-seven times and he doesn’t treat his kids very nicely.

Now, I’m using an extreme example, but the point is that I want to follow people who have success in most of the areas that I value in life because I believe that when you live your life by principles it will carry over into all areas of life.

That’s why I choose to follow a leader like Orrin. When the whole industry was going backwards I watched him grow. That in itself is a rare thing. I watched him build a community of people who were willing to follow him through tough times. But not only that, I’ve watched him work hard to be a a better father, to be a better husband. He reads books and the results show up in his life. Orrin is not ashamed to grow in any area, even as he mentors others.

Which brings me to the last thing to look for in a leader worth following – humility. A great leader isn’t caught up in his own success, but is focused on continuing to get better. I’ve seen so many leaders who have had marginal successes, read their own press clippings, and stop growing. Look for the opposite in a great leadership.

Orrin Woodward get more humble as the years go by. The more success he has in leadership, the less he reads his own press clippings. He’s always hungry for more growth and an eager student in all areas of LIFE.

If you are looking for a leader to follow, keep your eye out for vision, results and humility. Where you find them, you find a great leader.

God Bless, Tim Marks