My Thoughts by Rick Stephens

Are You Choosing To Fail?

Posted in Attitudes,General Business,Leadership by Rick on the January 23rd, 2007

Fixing a CarIt is an interesting phenomenon with us humans… we migrate toward those things that are harmful to us as individuals, as a people, and also, as business owners. We go through life making choices on how we live our lives, the activities we participate in, the things we watch, and the things we eat, all of which become the essence of who we are. Left to themselves, things will deteriorate. It takes positive effort to cause improvement. Unfortunately, it seems that we have a propensity to take the easy road in life, the one that allows things to decline, instead of the hard road which yields positive improvement.

Take a car for example. If all we ever do is drive it around town, or worse yet, let it sit in our driveway, what happens? It begins to fall apart. To keep the car at its peak, we need to change the oil regularly, rotate the tires, check the belts, insure the proper fluid levels, and myriad other inconvenient maintenance chores. If the car just sits, it will begin to rust, tires will become flat, fluids become sludgy, etc. In other words, left to themselves things deteriorate. And so do we.

We choose those things in life that are harmful to us. We choose to sit on the couch and watch TV instead of going to the gym to work out. We choose to eat pizza and fast food on the run instead of taking the time to sit down to a quiet, healthy dinner. We choose to dream and never take action to see it fulfilled. We choose to let others decide our political leaders instead of voting ourselves. We choose to pollute our air instead of applying technology to keep it clean. We choose to build bombs instead of relationships. As business owners, we choose to let the status quo determine our fate instead of applying change proactively to improve our lot.

Kermit the frog once said, “It ain’t easy being green.” We are all green when it comes to life, and believe me it’s not easy. We must take an active approach to make a difference in our lives as individuals, as a people, and of course, as business leaders. We must force change. Left to themselves, all things will crumble. If a year from now you are doing the same things you are doing today, you will be worse off for wear and tear. Lack of change means failure. Are you choosing to fail?

To Your Success,

Ricks Signature

Recognizing a Man or a Turning Point?

Posted in Attitudes by Rick on the January 14th, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr.Tomorrow, January 15, 2007, we recognize one of this country’s greatest advocates to civil rights, a man who courageously stood firm for the rights of African Americans during a time when almost no one was willing to allow the African American equality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We celebrate the day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the only holiday this country has using the name of an American Citizen. At one time we celebrated Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday, but those holidays have transformed into Presidents Day in recognition of all of our Presidents.

The other day, a friend of the family who is 9 years old, asked me a very provocative and thoughtful question, a question generated from the innocence of a child. She asked, “Why do we have a Martin Luther King Day but not a John F. Kennedy Day?” I probed a little before I answered the question to try and understand what she was really asking. It turns out that she did not understand the reason there were events and days that were specifically focused on the African American population.

Of course, I tried to explain that African Americans in this country were severely suppressed for many years, and it was during a difficult period of our country’s history that one man, Dr. Martin Luther King, stood firm under extreme adversity to bring respect, pride, and equality to this segment of our population. Even while I attempted to articulate the reason for a day named for an African American, I began to ask some of my own questions.

Why do we continue to separate the African American from the rest of the nationalities in this country? We have a Miss Black America Pageant, Black Entertainment Television, etc. I understand that every nationality wants, and needs, to be recognized, and we should all be proud of our heritage. That is not in question here, but these types of events go beyond pride and seem to define equality as something that is still segregated from all others. Was it not the goal of the Civil Rights movement to garner parity for African Americans, or was it to reinforce the attitude of the 1957 version of the Civil Rights Act, “Equal but Separate?”

We made an awful mistake during our early history, and the world has made many of these types of mistakes during its struggle to become a civilized society. I believe it is time we truly grant equality to the races. It has been almost 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed and almost 140 years since slavery was legal in this country. It is time we come together, once and for all, put aside our mistakes of the past, allow this wound to heal, and move forward as a united country.

Regarding MLK Day, my friend was right, why do we have a Martin Luther King Day and no John F. Kennedy Day? After all, there were many significant people who were contributors to the passing and subsequent strengthening of the Civil Rights Act, including Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Linda Brown and her father Oliver, who challenged segregation in the public schools (Brown v. the Board of Education), James Meredith (University of Mississippi), and many other courageous Americans, some whose names we will never hear. They all were willing to make tremendous sacrifices in order to propel our nation out of this nightmare. They too should be recognized for their efforts.

Perhaps it would be a major step forward if we changed the name of Martin Luther King Day as we did with Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday, to Civil Rights Day, or some other name which we can use to acknowledge all of the great Americans who contributed to the goal of equality for everyone.

To quote the venerated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his infamous March on Washington, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.’ ” I believe that if we truly want to reach this goal and become a nation united and equal as Dr. King’s dream portrayed, we need to stop segregating our races and come together under one name, Americans.

To Your Success,

Rick's Signature

Reflections on Time

Posted in Personal Growth by Rick on the January 4th, 2007

Children DreamingHappy New Year everyone. I hope that you had a restful holiday season and have prepared yourself for a productive and prosperous new year.

I apologize for the unusual delay since my last post, but I was also enjoying the holidays, reflecting on the year gone by, and planning for the coming year.

As I was relaxing on the beach in Curacao, (Yes, I was gone for awhile on vacation) I began to think about my goals and objectives for the coming year. As I did so, I began to reflect on the concept of time and how uncontrollable it is. Each year, many of us make New Year resolutions, some that are realistic and some not so realistic, but often those resolutions quickly become lost as life, work, and obligations begin to consume our days.

I don’t want to lecture you on the traditional topic about keeping your resolutions and annual goal setting. I think most of you reading this have had enough of that type of discussion and will either do it or not. But there is one thing I do want to mention with regard to time and how it impacts us all.

We cannot control the passing of time. It will happen regardless of anything we do. I know that seems pretty obvious, but what is very sad is how most of us will develop a dream and slowly watch the years pass by without ever seeing it fulfilled. We should recognize how essential it is to take the first step toward that dream no matter what the circumstances may be in our life. If you don’t, time will take you hostage, and you will someday reflect on the past and say those familiar words, “If I had only…”

Consider the following example to illustrate my point. I have an elderly friend whom I have known my entire life. This lady is very active in her church. During the last 30 plus years, she has become a recognized Lay minister/leader in her home church as well as the community in which she lives. About 15 years ago, we were discussing life’s events and she mentioned to me that if she could do it all over again she would go to Seminary and become an Ordained Minister. I suggested that she do it now. Her response was very typical, “Oh, I can’t do that now, I’m too old.” At the time she was 60 years of age. She could have gone to school for 6 years, obtained her degree, and today she could have been living her dream for 10 years, with many more to come. Instead, she is still doing what she was doing 15 years ago, and continuing to reflect on, “If I had only…”

My friend is not unhappy with her achievements, and in fact, can be very proud of who she is and what she has given to her community. The difference is the dream.

She could have made her dream come true if she had not let her circumstance convince her that it was too late. Time will continue to pass no matter what you do. Don’t let it take you hostage. Resolve to take that first step to achieving your dream, then look back and say,”I’m glad I did that.”

To Your Success,

Rick's Signature