Monday, August 24, 2009

I Got a Name

I'm a little young to remember Jim Croce. In some ways I wish I had seen his story. He died ten years before I was born, but left a legacy of music that is still alive today. Here are a couple highlights from his biography on

"Croce appealed to fans as a common man, and it was not a gimmick -- he was a father and husband who went through a series of blue-collar jobs. And whether he used dry wit, gentle emotions, or sorrow, Croce sang with a rare form of honesty and power. Few artists have ever been able to pull off such down-to-earth storytelling as convincingly as he was."

My most favorite song from all artists in all time periods is Jim Croce's I Got a Name. This simple ballad is inspiring to me. Here is a man who had his fair share of difficulties in living his dream, but he did it. In the song he states that 1) he carries his name and is "living the dream", 2) he sings his song proud, and 3) he will share his road with anyone who is "going [his] way". How do these things apply to leadership?

1) "I Got a Name... and I carry it with me like my daddy did, but I'm livin' the dream that he kept hid." - Everything in life has a name, it's how we carry that name that matters. Jim points out that his "daddy" carried the same name, but did so while hiding his dreams. There are some names that carry weight with them: Colin Powell, Jack Welch, and Warren Buffet for example. I don't think it is because their parents just happened to name them well. It is because they carried their name and lived their dream.

2) "I Got a Song... and I sing it loud. If it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud." This tidbit of the song entails two things. What is your song? and How can you sing it loud and proud? The answer to the first question takes soul searching. It is what makes you a leader. It takes desire and commitment to find, but once found it will fuel your song until the day you die. The answer to the second question may be more difficult, but remember it took Jim Croce years of "blue-collar" jobs as a father before he was able to find the how.

3) "Like the fool I am and I'll always be, I've got a dream... I know I could share it if you want me to. If you're going my way I'll go with you." Leadership is all about helping others become their own singers and songwriters. As a leader you have the opportunity of sharing your dream with those who desire to "go with you." You also have a duty to help those you serve as a leader carry their name, sing their song, and live their dreams!

There is one more tidbit in the middle of the song that I think is very applicable to what I have said today. Just after the guitar solo and before the last stanza, Jim sings, "And I'm gonna go there free." It is free. We can all pursue our dreams. What is stopping you? Just so you know, this song was released on the album titled "I Got a Name" three months after Jim died in a plane crash. He lived his dream beyond his death. How are you going to live yours?

I Got a Name - Jim Croce

Like the pine trees linin' the windin' road
I've got a name, I've got a name
Like the singin' bird and the croakin' toad
I've got a name, I've got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I'm livin' the dream that he kept hid
Movin' me down the highway
Rollin' me down the highway
Movin' ahead so life won't pass me by

Like the north wind whistlin' down the sky
I've got a song, I've got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby's cry
I've got a song, I've got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud
Movin' me down the highway
Rollin' me down the highway
Movin' ahead so life won't pass me by

And I'm gonna go there free
Like the fool I am and I'll always be
I've got a dream, I've got a dream
They can change their minds but they can't change me
I've got a dream, I've got a dream
Oh, I know I could share it if you want me to
If you're going my way, I'll go with you
Movin' me down the highway
Rollin' me down the highway
Movin' ahead so life won't pass me by

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beware of the little things!!

I recently had a job working at a small rail yard. Few people realize how large and heavy trains actually are. We transferred product from railcar to semi trucks every day. The length of an 18 wheeler from bumper to bumper is about the length of your average railcar. A standard railcar can haul about 4 - 4.5 times the amount a semi truck can legally haul. A modern railcar can have a max weight (including the empty weight) of about 286,000 pounds. (about 129.7 metric tons). To give it some perspective, if you were to make those cute holiday model trains that go around the christmas tree perfectly to scale, one of those model train cars would weigh about 3,000 pounds. The typical train engine that would service our yard could push 50 fully loaded cars with ease! Trains are big!

No matter how big trains can be though, it really doesn't take much to get them off course. We had some deep gouges in the asphalt next to one of our lines where a train had derailed. The story was that while the de-railer was in place, the conductor accidentally switched the train to the wrong track. With all the momentum of a heavy train it wasn't quick to stop, even going 5 miles per hour. When the conductor realized his mistake he called for the brakes to be put on, but it was too late. Within seconds, the de-railer lifted the fully loaded railcar off the tracks and sent it loose. The gouges were only about 20 feet long, and there was very little harm done to anything except the conductor (after his boss talked to him)! The thing that amazed me is that the de-railer is portable! I don't just mean that you can move it with a forklift, or car, but that I can pick it up with one hand! It amazed me how a well designed 40 pound piece of metal could derail a train with millions of pounds of momentum and be reusable. It is also incredible that if the conductor had thought ahead, he could have removed the de-railer by hand and avoided the whole mess.

The point is this. The de-railer did its job and knocked a moving train off course. Do we see Satan's de-railers in time? He is trying to set up those well designed diversions to really knock us off course, no matter how much momentum we have. Satan knows our weak spots, and he has designed these de-railers for each and every one of us. It is up to us to plan appropriately so we don't switch into the wrong track to begin with. If we skirt the boundaries of disaster, we may just get disaster.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How Service Affects Leadership

For those of you who may have seen the recent BYU alumni Magazine, there was an article in there about service. While I am not a BYU alum, my wife is and I will often peruse her alma mater's magazine. the article was called Why Giving Matters by Arthur C. Brooks. He had an interesting tidbit in there about leadership, which is what I am going to school for at the University of Cincinnati. I downloaded the forum from BYU's website and spliced the leadership tidbit out for you to see.

I find this little tidbit very interesting. I guess if any of us aspire to be leaders, then we should step up to the plate and give.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Work Changes For the Better

Well, it has been a tumultuous month and I feel like I need to explain to those who may have heard about the changes, but don't know why.
While I was at scout camp on vacation, I received a phone call from a girl I worked with at Bulkmatic. She told me that the railroad had ended Bulkmatic's contract and was getting another company in to manage the yard. The management didn't like the thought of being kicked out, but the attitude seemed to be, "well, at least we have our jobs." It created a depressing atmosphere that was very hard to overcome. Unbeknownst to Bulkmatic, I had contacted a friend of mine the week before seeking alternate employment. He set up an interview for me after I got back from scout camp.
The interview was with a financial company called Federal Financial Group. I had become a client with them back in March and really liked their retirement product. I also liked their approach of trying to help people become more financially secure through debt elimination, retirement planning, life insurance, and financial coaching. If you know much about me, I've wanted to help people understand their finances better for years. I started with Primerica, and when that fizzled I applied to Edward Jones. Nothing ever came of that, and I moved on with life. I thought that I wouldn't really help anybody with their finances besides close friends, family, and myself. Then I had the interview.
The company is headquartered in Draper Utah, and my recruiter was swapping mission stories with me when I was interviewing. I recently went to a leadership training meeting and noticed that some of the material that was used for motivation and inspiration came from General Conference. The only way that this really matters is in the aspect of company culture. It is really nice to work with people that share common morals. This is something I didn't get at Bulkmatic.
I have a hard road ahead of me and lots of foot work. Despite this, I know I made a very good switch for myself, my family, and hopefully for many other people that I can share the basics of good financial planning with.