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... the most world-famous executive coach you've never heard of.

Working behind the scenes, Michael Hume has inspired thousands of the world's best and brightest business talents to excellence, in every field from management consulting to entrepreneurship.

Michael's on a mission to create enlightened millionaires. He can help you maximize your health and wealth, and lead a more inspired life.

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Welcome!

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I hope you find some inspiration here.   My firm, Agents of Personal Change, is dedicated to helping people live healthier, happier, more prosperous lives… so many of the posts you’ll find here (all of which can be blamed solely on me) are aimed at kick-starting your inspiration to do just that.

For personal coaching, or just to kick around some ideas, please feel free to contact me.  If I can’t help you, there’s no need to redistribute any of your wealth to me!  But if you’re struggling, and I can help, I’ll do whatever it takes to help you win your personal battle, and enact the changes you want in your life.

Engage!

Realities From My Dad

baby voter

A Personal Invitation To Intentional Americanism

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

Beginning September 1, 2012, I started writing long weekly letters to my twenty-something kids – four young adults in two swing states – and called the collection “Realities From My Dad” (as a counter-balance to a similar-sounding memoir by the president).

I played the “favor for Dad” card, believing the 2012 national election to be important enough to justify asking my busy sons and daughters for an hour a week to read these long letters from Dad and give the ideas therein a “fair hearing.”  I proposed they use this important election season as a chance to develop their perspective on “intentional Americanism” – being participating governors of our nation, not just another crop of the “accidental Americans” so common to their age group (and, I’ll argue, to every generation of twenty-somethings since America’s founding).

I was quite clear that I wanted to influence my kids to vote against the president’s re-election – or, if they just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Mitt Romney, to abstain from voting altogether.  I was also quite clear that, after reading ten letters from their dad, while I was confident they’d end up adopting a philosophy similar to the one I put forth (because it just makes sense), they were free to disagree with me.  Just read the letters, I asked, and form your own perspective.  Use these thoughts to get yourself engaged.

And they did.

You’d have to ask them, but I think none of them – zero out of four – was inclined to register and vote for Mitt Romney before they read these letters.  By election day, all four of my kids (and some of their roommates and friends) had become convinced of the danger a second Obama term posed to their country, their freedom, and their way of life.  I’m proud to say all four of my kids registered to vote, and voted for Mitt Romney.

Though the Republican Party won many victories across America this year (you could argue that, top to bottom, they “won” the election), Obama was narrowly re-elected.  But both Democrats and Republicans are now busily mis-interpreting the results of the election.  The nation is changing, and “experts” from all political viewpoints are clear on this fact… but few of those experts realize what those changes really are, or what they mean for the future of America.

The next generation – my kids’ generation – is more inclined than most people think to restore America.

We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m on to a follow-up project, with the working title “The Closet Entrepreneur – Personal Responsibility In The Era Of Free Stuff.”  Like “Realities,” I intend that project for a young audience.  For the next generation of leadership in America.  For the latest, greatest generation.

For my kids, and yours.

Here are links to the ten “Realities” letters, soon to be available as a book.  My kids are working on the preface and epilogue, as we speak (speak?).  While they are, in this form, thought by some young’uns to be “TLTR” (“Too Long To Read”), I think you’ll find they’re quite readable.  Funny at turns… very entertaining… not too condescending… and extremely informative.  See if you can get the 15-30-year-olds in your life to read them.

Play the “favor” card, if you have to.

Their future, which I think you’ll agree is in dire jeopardy, depends on the sort of perspective-finding these young adults will have to get from whacky sources like this.  Their teachers, their entertainers, their media, and certainly their government, have no interest in Realities like these.

Realities From My Dad

Letter I, from September 1, 2012: “Liberal Cred – A Syllabus, Of Sorts.”

Letter II, from September 8, 2012: “The Great Government Brain-Ray! – Or, Why You May Have Developed Some Beliefs Based On Incomplete Or Inaccurate Data.”

Letter III, from September 15, 2012: “Two Kinds Of People - And How They Tend To Vote.”

Letter IV, from September 22, 2012: “How Do You Boil A Live Frog? – Here’s A Hint: Keep Changing What The Frog Thinks Is Cool.”

Letter V, from September 29, 2012: “The Big Exception! - What’s So Special About America? Here, Lemme Tell Ya.”

Letter VI, from October 6, 2012: “Dance, Monkey! Dance! – Grinding The State Organ In Today’s Obama Nation.”

Letter VII, from October 13, 2012: “It’s The Economy, Stupid! - Money Makes The World Go ‘Round… And Enlarges Your Prostates.”

Letter VIII, from October 20, 2012: “The Consultant In Chief - Could A Renewal Of Limited Government Reverse The Damage Of A Revenge Agenda?”

Letter IX, from October 27, 2012: “America Classic - Time To Get Busy On Our Restoration Project!”

Letter X, from November 3, 2012: “The Latest Greatest Generation - It’s Not The Hand You’re Dealt, It’s How You Play Your Cards.”

Inspiration For Troubled Times

stormy sea girl

Why Your Business Leadership Mission Matters

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

No doubt about it, times are tough. In America, unemployment is high, and has been high for a long time. So is (and has been) the price of gas… and just about everything else. Our prosperity is all but gone; a recent report noted that the average U.S. family has lost forty percent of its wealth in the last three-plus years. Business is tough: taxes and regulations have skyrocketed, while revenues have plummeted nearly across-the-board.

If you’re reading this, you own a business, or you’re driving your leadership mission in the service of another organization. And you might be wondering why. Why are you doing this? What’s the point? It’s like the old joke: “Sure, we lose money on every sale, but we’ll make it up on volume.” Seriously, though, I think a lot of business leaders are struggling. It’s hard to find inspiration for troubled times, and inspiration is what keeps leaders going.

I’ve worked with many clients who wanted to be more inspiring leaders. This is the truth I’ve told each of them: you have to start by being a more inspired person. And, if you’re like them, you’re thinking that’s a lot easier said than done – especially in times like these. In fact, it’s probably a drop in your personal inspiration that’s making you wonder if your daily grind is worthwhile. So how do you renew that inspiration?

Personally, I don’t believe you can go out and get a half-pound of inspiration… it’s not a commodity, and no store sells it at any price. By definition, inspiration is mercurial, and (in my opinion, and in the opinion of other inspiration “experts”) it requires the blessing of God. But if you’re serious about trying to increase your inspiration, here are the things you’d do.

First, you’d start counting your many blessings, and the things you have to be appreciative and thankful for. However tight money is these days, you’re still blessed; most of the poorest families in America still have TVs and microwave ovens! However low your energy is, or how bad your health is, you’re still blessed; someone out there is in worse shape, and chances are good that you can still do something about your low vitality. Wherever you live, whatever you do, whoever surrounds you… you’re blessed. And if you want to be more inspired, start with a new appreciation for the great things in your life (and turning off the inner voice that wants to talk about the bad stuff).

Second, you’d put your brain and heart on a diet. That means you’d stop putting negative, depressing things into your brain, and start pumping in positive, uplifting messages. Watch better stuff on TV. Read better books. Write about your blessings in a journal. Listen to positive music. If you enjoy horror movies or protest music, fine… but do you have to limit your brain to that stuff, exclusively? Put your brain on a diet. Think of the negative “entertainment” as the same sort of indulgence as a piece of chocolate cake. Limit it. And get the “vegetables” that will start you thinking in a more positive direction.

You’d also want to stop worrying, whatever it takes. Worry is negative goal-setting. A worried person envisions a negative future, and then, sure enough, starts moving toward that future like a moth drawn to a flame. When an inspired leader sets goals, she uses her imagination to picture a wonderful future, and then sets in motion the right actions to move toward happier outcomes. You can stop obsessing about the things that worry you. The prescription is action. Start taking action today to move yourself toward a positive future.

Once you’ve done these things, you should be a more fertile field in which God can grow inspiration. (By the way: if you don’t believe in God, don’t worry. God believes in you.) And if you feel your own inspiration growing, your sense of purpose for your mission will also grow. And so will the inspiration others draw from your leadership.

Don’t give up. That’s when the game is really lost. Your mission matters, even if it’s just to make a buck. America was founded not by Congressmen who declared independence from Britain, but really, by pilgrims who came here for religious and economic freedom. America is based on faith in God, hard work, personal responsibility, and the freedom to dream it and do it. And that’s why your mission matters. That’s why it’s worth getting up every morning and working late every day. Tough times come and go; but inspiration is always there, if you open yourself to it and expect it to grow within you.

Barry So Loved The World, They Worshipped Him!

savior obama

“I Hope You Still Believe In Me!” Says The Campaigning One

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

Legend has it, little Barry’s mom told him, “Barry, when you grow up, you need to be like Jesus!” “You mean, spread the gospel of God’s love, teach humility and duty, and sacrifice myself for the good of all mankind?” he asked. “No, Dummy,” said his mom, who didn’t believe in all that religious mumbo-jumbo. “I mean, get the whole world to worship you!” She was all like, there could be big money in it, so Barry decided to check out this Jesus guy.

He got a Bible – somewhere – but apparently it was too boring to actually read. So, when he got a little older, Barry went to Jerry Wright’s church, where he learned that Christianity had nothing to do with Christ, but with getting back at The Man. And he learned that, if you want to get people to worship you and sing songs about you in elementary schools in New Jersey (which would really miff The Man), you better promise to do amazing stuff, like feed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes. Evidently Jesus did that – and he got back bushels full of bread and fish – and He did it with no food stamp program whatsoever.

So Barry gathered a multitude (mainly by throwing opponents – most of them other black folks – off the ballot on technicalities so he could run unopposed). Then he got five loaves and two fishes. Then he told his robot – er, disciples – to redistribute them. He kept a loaf and a fish for himself, of course (it’s only fair). But after the redistribution, which featured fish sandwiches for the disciples, the multitude cried out with hunger! This savior stuff is harder than it looks, Barry thought.

Members of the multitude said, “Screw this, I’m going fishing for myself.” Others opened bakeries. Barry quickly realized this would not make him any money, or get him any worshipful praise. So he outlawed private fishing on the basis that it was somehow bad for the environment, and he heaped so many taxes and regulations on the bakers that they had to sell out to the guv’mint. Then he appropriated five more loaves and two more fishes, and called a multitude meeting.

“If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime,” Barry told the multitude. “But if you give a man a fish sandwich, and make that his only hope of daily bread, you force him to love you – and vote Democrat!”

And Barry saw that it was good. The multitude, munching on tiny fish-flavored croutons, wasn’t thrilled with the New Raw Deal, but whaddya gonna do? They still had to chant and sing songs about Barry. It was too risky not to.

And somewhere up in the Heaven she doesn’t believe in, Barry’s mom is looking down on him. She couldn’t be prouder. But, legend has it, Jesus is becoming increasingly miffed.

Use Your Vacation To Build Inspiration

beach vacation

Relax, Appreciate, Imagine, And Dream

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

It’s vacation season! Most people would say their vacation is their big annual chance to get away from it all. And it is. A chance to get away from all the daily cares of the world and the grind of work. But I say your vacation is really a chance to get back to it all. An opportunity to get back, in your mind and heart, to the most important things. Your mission. Your inspiration. The “why” behind the things you do the rest of the year.

Spend the first several hours of your vacation just enjoying the respite from the daily grind. Try to relax, and just allow yourself to be in the moment. If you travel for vacation, you’ll want to soak in your surroundings. If, like many people these days, your personal economy demanded you take a “stay-cation” at home, I think you should do the same thing – take a fresh look at your surroundings – and remind yourself why you chose to live where you do. Your home is your castle. Enjoy it!

This is a key step in getting back to it all. Once you’ve relaxed and “escaped” mentally from your daily grind, it’s time to take inventory of your overall life with a view toward attaining a new appreciation for the things you have, do, and are. Appreciation is a key building-block of inspiration; and inspiration is necessary for achieving your best aspirations. So whether you’re taking a fresh look around the ol’ homestead, or your inventory is a more cerebral look at the big picture of your life, find the things you can appreciate about the life you have. Want to get away from it all? Get away first from your own negative feelings about your life. Get back to the things you love about your life.

While you’re looking at the big picture, it’s a perfect time to turn on your positive imagination. Last week, back in the heat of your workday (and trying to work ahead for your vacation), you were worried. Anxious. In the heat of “battle,” your imagination tries to protect you by forcing you to envision a negative future. That’s worry. It makes you form contingency plans for dealing with bad outcomes… but if you dwell too much on those possibilities, worry becomes a form of negative goal-setting. You can find yourself moving toward those bad goals, without even realizing it. Want to get away from it all? Make sure you get your imagination away from worry, and start using your new-found appreciation as a foundation for imagining a good future. A great future. The future you had in mind when you first started to build the life you have.

It’s this dreaming that will help you recharge your inspiration and further your mission. You have a job to do back at work, sure, but your mission is greater. You’re on a mission to make the world better in some way… to leave a positive mark… to make life better not just for yourself, but for your family, your neighbors, and even people you’ve never met. You might own a business, or you might be a leader in a company or firm, or you might simply be embarking on an emerging mission that will take you places you don’t now fully understand. In any case, you’re on a journey that will require inspiration; and you’ll need to relax, appreciate, and dream before you can become inspired.

Remember that true inspiration comes only from God. Believe what you want; I hold that you’ll have many goals toward which you’ll be motivated in your life, but the truly inspiring ones will be the ones blessed with a Divine tailwind, and to me, that’s God. They say “we plan, God laughs.” Sometimes God laughs at your plan, and you must learn again the humbling lesson that you’re not finally in charge of your world. But sometimes, God laughs with you… and inspires you to do amazing things you never would’ve imagined.

But start imagining. Those of your dreams blessed by true inspiration are the ones you’ll live for. And when you get away from it all this summer, make sure you get back to those crucial dreams that make your personal battle worth fighting, and your life worth living.

Health Habits: Smokes Bring Strokes

brain_smart

The NEWSS Might Help You Avoid A Stroke Of Bad Luck

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

So many of us know someone who’s had a stroke… for me, it was Papaw.  He was one of the strongest influences on me, throughout my childhood and into my adult life.  Papaw died when I was in my twenties, and I still remember his voice on the telephone the last few times I had the privilege to speak with him.  The stroke had given him a slur that made him hard to follow.  He’d had a tough life, and it turned out to be a shorter life than many people enjoy these days.

We all understand the term “heart attack” – but stroke, which is essentially a “brain attack,” doesn’t get as much press.  Yet the World Stroke Organization recently reported that one in six people will suffer a stroke!  And someone dies from a stroke every six seconds.

The WSO report also contained some very good news, though.  It turns out 85% of stroke sufferers had risk factors which, if identified and addressed, could’ve prevented the stroke.

The report named six steps to reduce your stroke risk.  First, learn the warning signs of a stroke: sudden numbness (especially if it only affects one side of the body), loss of balance (or sudden vertigo), sudden difficulty in speaking or seeing, or severe headaches that seem to come out of nowhere.  Second, check your personal risk factors for stroke: high blood pressure (also called “hypertension”), high cholesterol levels, and diabetes.  Rounding out the WSO’s six steps were exercising regularly and keeping yourself physically active, eating a healthy diet and avoiding obesity, restricting your alcohol consumption, and avoiding cigarette smoke (and getting whatever help it takes to stop if you’re a smoker).

That last one’s really a killer.  I know Papaw enjoyed his smokes (unfiltered Camels, in his case)… and though he also drank a little, I always thought the smoking was his biggest nemesis.

It turns out the Heart And Stroke Foundation would agree with me.  (Yes, there is a separate “Heart And Stroke Foundation.”)  On the heels of the WSO report, the HSF reported that smokers are twice as likely to have strokes.  And, on average, a smoker will have a stroke ten years earlier than a non-smoker.  When you consider that a stroke changes your life – permanently, and not for the better – those are long odds to gamble.

Don’t gamble.  Start with the five key daily health habits I call The NEWSS: Nutrition (begin by minimizing the processed convenience food), Exercise (at least three good workouts each week), Water (get your two liters every day), Sleep (get your eight hours every night), and Supplements (make sure you get at least one good daily multi-nutrient).  Notice how the WSO suggestions for stroke avoidance overlap with The NEWSS.  And it should go without saying: if you want to avoid strokes, start by avoiding the smokes.

You could follow all this advice and still have a stroke – sometimes, life is arbitrary and unfair like that.  But you definitely want to minimize your chances of having a “brain attack.”  If you suffer a stroke, you’ll wish you’d stopped smoking… but it’ll be too late.  Go through a (relatively) little pain now – drop the smokes! – and live a better, longer, happier life for years to come.

The Conscience Of A Restorationist, XVIII

carrot stick

Free-Market Incentives Can Help Restore America

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

There are two kinds of person out there, and in the heat of campaign season in America you can really see the difference.  Candidates pander to “victims,” promising more and more goodies from the government coffers.  “Entrepreneurs,” on the other hand, seem to be running their own campaigns, attempting to convince candidates to use their borrowed power to free the market and bring America back to strength and prosperity.

You’ve heard it before – the two groups of people “out there” are mirrored by the two types of person within each of us.  Our inner Victim needs to be taken care of; he’s critical, political, and cynical.  Our inner Entrepreneur seeks to take care of himself, and of others; he’s courageous, collaborative, and adventurous.  Each of us will be dominated by the inner image we “feed,” and though we might visit both sides of ourselves throughout our lives, we tend toward one side or the other most of the time.  But because we can change, politicians learned long ago they can appeal to one side or the other of the inner nature of the masses.  So the nation, in turn, is dominated by the personality most nourished in a larger sense by mass influence.

That’s where the progressive statists come in.  There are two types of politicians out there, too, and it should be no surprise that the two types mirror our inner Victim and Entrepreneur.

Statists appeal to (and nourish) the inner Victim of the nation.  They believe in a huge, all-controlling central state government which “takes care” of the masses.  Statists use whatever means they can to make their case, appealing to our love of “fairness” and “equality” to rationalize such systems as liberalism, socialism, fascism, and communism (all roots of the same statist tree).  Most statists don’t believe in God, and they don’t want you getting religion, either; they want you to look to the government for help, not to some Supreme Being.  The key, defining element of statism is a push toward more and bigger government.

Statists are opposed by Constitutionalists – those who believe, as did America’s founders, that “that government governs best which governs least.”  While there are lots of examples throughout history of statist regimes, there has been only one grand experiment in limited-government, free-market Constitutionalism: The United States.  Most Constitutionalists believe in God, and trust that Heaven will provide for mankind in a general sense; but here on Earth, they believe people can mostly govern themselves, and that state government is not a protection, but a threat.  The key, defining element of Constitutionalism is a push toward less and smaller government.

Because America’s Constitutional founding (and the commensurate system of individual liberty and free markets) has generated more strength and prosperity than has any other system in history (indeed, the entire world is made more strong and prosperous because of the existence of the American experiment), the statists have found it difficult to foment “revolution” here.  Shortly after bloody coups in places like the old Soviet Union and National-Socialist (“Nazi”) Germany, statists discovered that abrupt changes to statism will always eventually fail.  So their strategy changed to one of long-term “evolution.”  The statists’ best opportunity lies in the generational forgetfulness of Americans… as Ronald Reagan, a staunch conservative Constitutionalist, once said, freedom is not passed down to the next generation in the bloodstream.  So if the statists could win the war of influence – if they could “progress” to a generation which didn’t remember any of the triumphs of Constitutionalism (or the failures of statism), they might be able to wrest power for themselves.  They might finally topple the giant.

Toward this end, the statists began over a century ago to slowly take control over institutions of influence in America.  At first, there was one nutty professor in the university Sociology department who actually believed in collectivism… one goofy writer who couldn’t keep steady work at newspapers but whose socialist appeals could be disseminated through novels.  It took generations before those opinion-leaders were able to multiply themselves, but they got excellent help at times from politicians who campaigned as “centrists” but, once in power, governed as statists (Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama chief among them).  Today, statists enjoy nearly total control of all traditional institutions of influence in America, from the shop floor to the movie theater, and from the classroom to the newsroom.

“Working” on them since elementary school, the statists have succeeded in making a large chunk of the current voting generation believe things most of their parents (and certainly their grandparents) knew to be fallacious.  That capitalism is bad, and only benefits the greedy “one percent.”  That socialism is good, and is only fair.  That the government can and will take care of them.  That when the attempt is made to redistribute wealth earned by others, that you won’t run out of money, and everyone will be better off.  That an all-powerful government is a benefit to the governed.

This, of course, is a complete vandalism of our Constitutional republic.  As a result, today’s Constitutionalists are really, as I’ve argued, “restorationists.”  America is now like a vandalized building, and what’s needed is restoration.

Good news: there are many great restoration projects underway right now, and we can each choose a project that fits our particular gifts and join the effort.  When you see a politician on TV, pushing big government and playing to your inner Victim, you might now also hear an Entrepreneur on the radio pointing out what the true consequences of big government would be.  For every solidly-socialist faculty on campus, there now rises up a freshly-informed student group to oppose the march toward statism.  Union leaders keep trying to buy politicians, but they have an increasingly difficult time convincing their hard-working rank-and-file members to vote the way they think they should.  People are starting to get it, to speak out, and to get back into the war of influence.

We’re working hard to restore America.  It starts by opposing the statists within the institutions of influence where they enjoy such widespread control.  Restoration projects are underway in government, business, media, entertainment… almost any institution of influence you can name.  In addition, though, one thing in great need of restoration in America is the right kind of incentive.

It’s simple, really.  Victims are incentivized by free goodies.  Entrepreneurs are incentivized by free opportunity.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, over time, if you incentivize a population with free goodies, the mass of people will not be motivated to work, create, or innovate.  This perpetuates a permanent underclass of victims in society – people who need to be taken care of – and that’s exactly what the statists want (indeed, their plans critically depend on dependency).  If you limit government, though, and provide lots of free-market opportunity, people will be motivated to activate their inner Entrepreneur, and to pursue those opportunities.

Medical practice is a perfect example of this.  If you are a doctor in a government health care system, you’re a government employee, and your only incentive is to put in your time and keep costs low.  Eventually, with no one motivated to create much in the way of new, groundbreaking science, you lose your “edge” and virtually forget how to do the things you got into medicine to do (heal, innovate, and create solutions to health problems).  You report to a bureaucrat, who is also not motivated to do more than the “government minimum” for patients.  If, on the other hand, you’re a doctor in the free market – well, you could get rich practicing GREAT medicine.  You could get by on average medicine, but there is an incentive there, every day, to do your best.  In fact, every day, you’re motivated to do better than what your best was yesterday.

By the way, if you do get rich, you’ll do business with merchants, you’ll hire more people, you’ll spend tourism dollars, and you’ll do a lot for the people who depend on the robust economy you and your rich friends create.  Many of those folks, in turn, will be motivated to do their best (to get more of your dollars)… and eventually, many of them might just join you on the next luxury cruise.

And that’s why the free market has created so much strength and prosperity.  If we can restore free-market incentives, we’ll go far toward restoring America.

What can you do?  You could start a business and pursue your own opportunities, but even if that’s not for you, ANY entrepreneurial project will help.  Many Entrepreneurs don’t own businesses, but work their leadership mission in the service of another organization.  There are even Entrepreneurs who work for the government – they’re the ones working to get government out of your way (and that’s a TOUGH job for which those folks deserve our deepest gratitude).

You can take on a restoration project aimed at restoring free-market incentives, and you could even do it in the realm of politics.  Simply by voting for the candidate (in any race) who comes across as less of a statist – who speaks to the inner Entrepreneur, at least occasionally – you can help.  To go further, work to influence your candidates to join the restoration (and abandon statism).  Electing a different brand of statist will not solve the problem.  Entrepreneurs need to continue campaigning their elected officials after the election, holding them accountable for keeping government small and limited, pushing for lower taxes and fewer regulations, arguing for the free market and the incentives upon which it (and the nation) depends.

The voters do the campaigning?  That might sound backwards to you – but that’s because the statists have had a hundred years to make it seem that way.  America, as originally founded, was a clear departure from the standard government-leads-you-follow systems of history.  In America, the people are supposed to lead, and the government’s supposed to follow.  We are in charge, not they.  We influence, and they vote… not the other way around.  And that’s the America we need to firmly restore today.

Give some thought to how you can help restore the right kind of incentives in the people around you… and in yourself.  We need the best of each of us to make America work the way our nation’s founders knew it could.

Only You Are Responsible For Yourself, II

despair

Always Remember: In America, You’re Never Out Of Options

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

I’ve talked to too many people these days who are near despair.  A client called me in tears over the weekend.  She’s been a star in her company, rising fast, never shrinking from a challenge, always ready to demonstrate inspirational leadership at any opportunity.  But in spite of her superb efforts, things are tough for her now.  So tough, she’s close to the end of her rope.  As we talked, she kept repeating that she felt she was out of options.

I could relate.  I remember being in similar tight spots when I was in my twenties… working too many hours, getting not-enough sleep, making too little money, carrying too many responsibilities, having lots of mouths to feed (and several little future adults to teach-up).  Despite working more than a hundred hours a week, I made so little money around the time of my firstborn’s arrival that my little family was on government assistance for a brief time.  I can’t describe how ashamed I was that, as an able-bodied (and talented) adult, I couldn’t provide for a family of three.

Another time, I had to take a sales job in another city, and do a daily round-trip commute of 120 miles just to barely scrape out a living.  More than once, those days, I spent much of my lunch hour sitting in an out-of-the-way corner of a nearby shopping center, my head in my hands, crying… nearly sick with worry.  I looked up a person who used to work for me – the wife of a reasonably-successful business owner – and went to beg for fifty dollars to get me through a week of commuting.  I felt horrible asking for that kind of help, and I promptly paid back the loan… and I will never forget it.

But the biggest wake-up call I received came from my own adoptive father, when I was a new father and had just changed newspaper jobs.  I asked him for a few bucks to tide me over until my first payday.  He refused, and told me he’d advised his sons (my “bros” and best friends) not to lend me any money, either.  It wasn’t that he doubted I’d pay it back – he didn’t.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have it – he did.  It was this: a teaching opportunity.  As he put it, I’d been an adventurer throughout my young life, and  while I could always find a way to get through the adventures I got myself into, I now had a wife and baby to think about… and the sooner I realized I had to get ALL of us out of life’s scrapes, the sooner I’d start being a little more strategic and forward-thinking in my choices.

It was some of the hardest medicine I ever had to take… and some of the best.

The fact is, at least in America, you’re never out of options.  You may have to humble yourself.  You may even have to re-invent yourself.  You’ll often have to take stock of what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’ll frequently have to change directions.  But if your intentions are good, and you’re willing to work hard, you’ll have options.  Hard-working, good people are often unaware of how many allies they really have out there, and how much help they can get if they’re willing to put forth great effort and return the favor.

Don’t be a victim.  A victim continually seeks to be taken care of, and is willing to give up his liberty to keep from taking personal responsibility.  Be, instead, a strategic adventurer… an opportunity-seeker… an entrepreneur.  Take care of yourself, and be ready to help take care of others.  The sweetest things in this life are earned.  And don’t despair!  Just roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath, pick a new direction, and get moving.  Keep doing that, and you’ll never run out of options.

It’s The Stupid Economy!

money on fire

Demediacrats On The Economy: It’s Stupid!

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

I’m really sick of all these right-wingers talking about the economy.  Aren’t you?  I mean, when Bill Clinton was running for president, he was all like, “It’s the economy, Stupid.”  That was his subtle, easy-going way of suggesting his opponent, George H.W. Bush, had perhaps failed to sufficiently focus on domestic issues.  But that was SO twenty years ago!

Now, when such people as non-leftist reporters (both of them) and the attendees at the recent G-20 summit keep bringing up the economy, they’re just trying to distract the president and his Demediacrat cheerleaders from the important things they need to focus on.  Like getting re-elected.  Like opening the door to blanket amnesty, covering up their gun-running scandal, and mentioning the academic theory of gay marriage.  We want to talk about stuff like that!  The economy?  That’s just stupid.

You’re unemployed, and your family’s lost at least forty percent of its wealth.  Or you own a business, it’s been two years since you paid yourself, and you’re being taxed and regulated into oblivion.  The national debt works out to $200,000 for every human in your household, and keeps going up.  And you now have to choose between gas and groceries – you can’t afford both.  So what?  Can’t you see past your own petty needs, and grasp the bigger picture?  Bitter clinger!

The president asked us to hire him, four years ago, promising a bright green future.  Green energy.  Green jobs.  Green (with envy) Republicans.  Put it all on green, he hollered!  And he’s helpfully gambled bazillions of your dollars on every “investment” that could pass itself off as obliquely-supportive of this whole green thing (provided that, in each case, the money ultimately went to bundlers in his party, of course).  That might seem stupid to you, since if every alternative energy source could be maxed-out (I’m talking everything – solar panels, wind turbines, hamsters on treadmills, socks on carpet, livestock flatulence, and oil from vegetables, teenagers’ faces, and old men’s hair), the power harnessed would be enough (maybe) to run the average nephew’s gaming console for 17 seconds.

But that’s not the point.  The point, of course, was to get the money spent!  Duh!  Until we get all your money spent, we’ll never eradicate capitalism.  We’ll still be stuck in the failed policies of the past, under which nefarious characters could still work harder than you work, and therefore unfairly make more money than you make.  Get the concept, and you’ll realize the current government has the economy well under control.  By which I mean, of course, that they’ve got YOU, and your mindless vote, under their control.

So stop bringing up the economy!  It’s a distraction.  It’s stupid!  And if you want to help your government along on its hope-and-change mission, you will be, too.  We’re totally counting on it.

Summer’s Finally Here!

dive in

Make It A Summer Of Inspiration In Your Business

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

I’ve been waiting months for this day… the first full day of summer!  The change of seasons always causes me some reflection, and I invariably draw inspiration from that reflection.  But this is the start of my favorite season, and I’m looking for an unusually-large harvest of personal inspiration, starting today.  I’m not going to declare it a holiday – I still have a business to run – but I’m going to pause long enough to make sure I restock my own inspiration.  It’s critical to inspirational leadership.

If you want to be a more inspirational leader, as do most of my clients, first think about how you can be a more inspired person.  What does it for you?  Nature?  Music?  Art?  Whatever it is, make sure you invest the time, energy, and attention required to harvest as much personal inspiration as you can.  You’ll never inspire others, in business or in any other walk of life, without a deep reservoir of inspiration of your own.

For me, summer is a most inspiring time.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with the fact that I’m very aware of the influence of God on inspiration.  Personally, I believe you can’t be truly inspired without a breath of the Divine in you.  God brings the change of seasons, God brings warmth and growth all around us during summer, and God brings inspiration.  Believe what you want; I know it isn’t “politically correct” to talk about God in business.  But to me, there is no business without help from Heaven.  (Especially these days!)

The little things that herald summer fill me with a quiet inspiration that seems to summon my best feelings – and my best efforts.  The sound of crickets in the evening.  The creaking of the swing, being enjoyed by the little girl who lives across the road.  The scent of flowers, of trees, of growing things.  The warmth of the sun on my face; the cool of the grass under my bare feet.  And the blazing glory of the western sunsets I get to enjoy almost every evening.

Lately, at our country home, it’s been hot.  Very hot.  Some might say it’s been too hot… and the weather personalities on radio and TV seem to celebrate when things cool off a bit.  For me, though (and I have to say I do appreciate the blessing of being able to do my work indoors), it’s easy to appreciate the heat.  I just go back in my mind a few short weeks.  Back to winter.  Back to shoveling snow, and driving through mud, and shivering in the wind.  I remember vividly what it felt like… and though there are things to appreciate about winter, I spend the winters longing for summer.  And today, as hot as it is, I’m happy to have summer back.  This is the heat I longed for, not that long ago.

The longer days… the warmer nights… the ease with which life seems to amble by.  It’s like life is unconcerned, free of worry, happy.  Content.

Inspired, and inspiring.

I have a mission, and a business to run, and that stuff is not always easy.  But it’s impossible without inspiration.  And in the summertime, to me, inspiration always seems to wait for me, right around the next corner.  Here’s wishing you the same blessed fortification as you tackle your own mission on this special day.