It’s Bret’s fault.
He was my campaign manager. Bret had an idea for a visual to use when I was giving my one and only campaign speech to the student body at Bedicheck Junior High in Austin, Texas. This was my one shot! And it was going to be good! How did we know? Because at the bursting-with-wisdom age of 13, Bret and I already knew that the key to winning an election was to make promises. LOTS of promises.
We never thought too much about keeping them.
This campaign-sealing idea was simple. During my stump speech, I would declare, “If I’m elected, I will make your life better. As a matter of fact, here is the list of promises I am making to you today!” At that moment, I was to reach into the podium, pull out a previously placed roll of paper towels, hang on to the first one and then — can you feel the excitement? — let the roll unfurl as it casually rolled down the steps of the stage, growing ever-longer to emphasize just how many promises I was making to this semi-illustrious student-body.
A memorable campaign speech, to say the least.
Unfortunately, it was memorable for the wrong reason.
I made my declaration of promises, stepped to the side of the podium, grabbed the end of the first towel, and let the roll fly ... only to have a single towel break off in my hand as the remaining, very-unrolled-role of paper towels — and apparently broken promises — bounced down the steps, landing with a thud.
Identical to my campaign.
I lost the election.
But I won something very important. It all had to with self-awareness.
I discovered that I love speaking to crowds.
Concurrently, in those same wacky middle-school days, my journalism teacher, Miss Anderson, helped me learn something else about myself. Not only did I love to speak, I also learned I love to write.
Speaking and writing. How many people are blessed to discover their passions at the age of 13?
Well, a lot of folks, actually. It’s simply that many of us let other “voices of reason” drown out those inner-voices of our desires. We stop pursuing what we’re made for. We settle.
Now, granted, there needs to be some reasoning in our lives. At this same age, I also wanted to be a professional baseball player. It took another five years for me to accept that I simply was never going to be good enough, not even to play in college, much less the pros.
But that passion for playing baseball was replaced with another once I got to college. I discovered what I loved speaking and writing about:
People and their relationships.
Over the following two-decades, I earned a BA, a Masters and a Doctorate in subjects related to people.
As a result, I have served as a licensed psychotherapist, founder and director of two counseling centers, a wacky, somewhat unhinged youth minister, an adjunct professor, a state director of marriage and family education, a state director of the school superintendent crisis program, a research fellow at a think-tank, a Director of Leadership Development and a Director of Culture. I also founded Relational Intelligence, LLC, an organization committed to teaching people the vital skills of emotional intelligence and how to get along with others.
And in the well-over 30 years since those days of adolescent angst, speaking and writing have been a huge passion as well as central to my vocation. I have spoken to audiences ranging from educators to business professionals, from military personnel to missionaries in Africa and Mexico. I have presented in corporate board rooms, academic lecture halls, military bases, and conference centers. I have have led workshops and given keynotes and even done a few radio and TV interviews. Whether it’s an audience of five or 5,000, I am passionate about helping people learn, grow, and improve their relationships.
Currently, I am honored to serve as a Senior Performance Consultant for the Flippen Group, a leadership development organization dedicated to bringing out the best in people around the globe. We are a world-wide leader in self-awareness training and executive coaching. It is such a privilege to get to do what I do every day with the people I get to do it with.
On the writing front, I have published several books, dozens of articles, and several curricula.
And now I have written The Backpack: How to Understand and Manage Yourself While Loving Others Along the Way. I have to tell you ... I am very excited about this book. It is, as multiple early readers have said, “It’s a good one!”
You’re going to want get a copy!
In the more important world of life outside of speaking, writing, and coaching, I am blessed to have been married for over 30 years to my best friend, Amy. We have three strong, independent, fun-loving, out-of-college kids who we enjoy hanging out with ... and who even still like hanging out with us. Crazy, I know. They are our happy place.
Along with hanging out with our friends.
And walking on the beach. That is a very happy place.
And what about my political career?
Well, I was class president or vice-president three out of four years in high school; I didn’t run my freshman year. I was elected to our local school board twice and then elected as president of that board three times. I was also asked to run for mayor but I would have had to find a new wife. “School board spouse” was as far Amy wanted to go in the world of politics. And upon reflection, it was as far as I wanted to go, too.
It would have gotten in the way of fulfilling my real passions that blossomed all those years ago on a stage and a typewriter.