“You are the same today that you will be five years from now except for two things— the people you meet and the books you read” Everyone who knows me knows my mentors are books. As a salesman it was books; as a manager it was books; in my home it’s books: with my friends’ lives it’s books. Years ago I had a habit of giving everybody a book with my card. I hoped they were read, but if not they were there to be read. In his book You And Your Network, my friend Fred Smith tells how Maxey Jarmon mentored him. I must admit that I felt a little envy as I read of their relationship. But when I thought of all my tremendous mentors in books, I think of myself as the most blessed man in the world. I would like to share with you one of the greatest ideas you will ever hear. A few simple changes in your daily routine can improve the quality of your life. NULL
From now on when you read a book, make the author your mentor and always read with your pen in your hand.
As you get used to reading with a pen in your hand, you begin to cultivate the habit of making notes of things you actually think in addition to what you thought you read.
We must learn to read, but only to get our own minds in motion and start our thought processes.
I practice this in church. When the pastor starts to preach, I take out my pen and start making notes of things I think. This excites the pastor because he thinks I’m writing out his sermon. Sometimes I think he should throw away his sermon and use my notes. As I leave church I get a smile or laugh when I say, “Pastor, you were really good this morning. You interrupted my train of thought a half dozen times.” Whether it is selling, preaching, or teaching, interrupting their train of thought to help them see what they know will always bring a smile or a laugh. Fifty years ago I attended a lecture. I don’t remember much of what the speaker said, but he made me laugh for an hour at my problems as I identified with many principles that convinced me that even though we had never met we were very much alike. As he closed his talk he said,
“You are the same today that you will be five years from now except for two things-the people you meet and the books you read.”
If you hang around achievers, you will be a better achiever; hang around thinkers and you will be a better thinker; hang around givers and you will be a better giver; but hang around a bunch of thumb-sucking complaining boneheads, and you will be a better thumb-sucking complaining bonehead. The “people you meet” and people you surround yourself with are your best mentors and a key influence in your life. We need mentors and positive role models as much as we need positive goals. But the trouble with our role models and heroes is that we can’t take them home. We have got to grow and experience the lessons of life alone. But don’t mistake aloneness for loneliness. Some people think they’re lonely because they’re young, while some people think they’re lonely because they’re old. Some people think they’re lonely because they’re poor, and yet some people think they’re lonely because they’re rich. Some discover that everybody is lonely to some degree and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You discover out of loneliness comes aloneness when you decide to live and grow. You alone decide to live your life and do your growing. No woman grows for a man. No man grows for a woman. No parent grows for a child. When you grow, you grow alone.
Growing brings growing pains but the laughs come too if humor is a part of your growing.
I mentioned “thinking with and listening and speaking to the heart,” and about seeing things in perspective and learning to laugh at our growing pains, using humor to break down barriers in our own heart and between other people. But you will never realize these points in your everyday experience without the stimulus of reading that broadens your perspective and pulls you out of the negative cycles that can develop in your own thinking. Here are some examples of my mentors in books. General Patton made his troops mad and glad. He made them think and laugh when he wasn’t around. General Patton once said. “If we’re all thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.” When you’re thinking, you’re constantly discovering new dimensions to everything; when you’re the wisest you know the least; and when you’re aware of your ignorance, you’re the wisest. How good it is to realize my ignorance. General Patton said not to be afraid of fear, “Fear is like taking a cold shower. When the water is ice cold, don’t tip-toe in-leap in and spread the pain around. Success isn’t how high you reach, success is how high you bounce every day when you hit bottom.”
Patton almost always helped his listeners see with their hearts what he was saying.
Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite mentors. His life has served as an inspiration to people from all walks of life. Many people will tell you that one of the secrets of excellence is education, yet Lincoln had little formal education. His family was so poor that for a period in Lincoln’s childhood, they didn’t have a door to their cabin. The year after his mother died, eight people lived in a small one-room log cabin. Many believe if you’re raised in poverty or a broken home, you don’t have much of a chance of growing beyond your past. There’s a lot of emphasis on self-esteem today, yet Lincoln had little reason to believe in himself. His mother died when he was a boy. He had little time with his hard working father. His sister died when she was in her teens. The woman he married didn’t make his life a bowl of cherries. There were very few people in Lincoln’s life who were there to stand by him and offer him positive encouragement of what he could and should do. So how does a man who lacks most of the things that we say you should have to be a successful leader, become one of the most revered heroes of world history? Two of the many great assets of Lincoln were his ability to tell stories in order to illustrate a point and while doing so get people to laugh with him.
Much of this was stored in his mind and heart through the book mentors he loved as a boy. Lincoln was a great thinker because he learned to read and laugh.
I would be remiss if I talked about mentors and my philosophy, and I didn’t mention my mentor Oswald Chambers. Nearly every word I have spoken for 50 years has been flavored by this man. Yet it’s no small wonder that many have never heard his name because Chambers died in 1917 at age 43. He never wrote a book. How can I have thirty of his books if he never wrote a book? He married the Prime Minister of England’s secretary and when he went to work with the YMCA in Egypt during World War I, she went with him and made shorthand notes of his talks. When he died in 1917, she lived on for years and wrote all the books from the notes she’d made. Let me tell you why Chambers is my favorite mentor.
He challenges my everyday thinking with a warmth that has grown out of the struggles of his own heart.
He helps me see how wrong I am in a way that lets me laugh at myself. Chambers says, “You can determine how lazy you are by how much inspiration and motivation you need to do something. If you’re for real, you do it whether you feel like it or not. The best way to avoid work is to talk about it.” Get people to think with you and you’ll get them thinking better. Get them laughing, but don’t let them laugh at you. Some comedians get people to laugh at them. And sometimes being a clown is necessary to loosen things up. But good managers, teachers, and salespeople learn how to get people to laugh at themselves. You begin by seeing things in perspective and learning to laugh at your own situation. I urge you to read and motivate others to read. Never read to be smart, read to be real; never read to memorize, read to realize. And never read in order to learn more, as much as you read to re-evaluate what you already know. Neve
r read a lot, but read just enough to keep hungry and curious, getting younger as you get older.
Success for me is one word-thankfulness, learning to be thankful.
The first mark of greatness is thankfulness: the first sign of smallness is thanklessness. An attitude of gratitude flavors everything you do. Once in a while some young tiger will say to me, “Did you feel this way years ago when you didn’t have anything?” I used to go home and say, “Honey, look at me.”Man of the Month.'” Look at this, “Man of the Year.” She would say, “Where’s the cash?” I’d say,
“Honey, if we don’t start learning to be happy when we have nothing, we won’t be happy when we have everything.”