Start at the Finish Line

Harold Coker

I’d often heard Harold Coker tell the story of how he went into the tire business. Born in a log cabin in NC, and the first in his family to receive a college education, he founded Coker Tire in 1958. His parents sold their home to loan him the start up money. He made sure he cared and honored them for the rest of their lives, including buying them a home to replace the one they had sold. Harold built Coker Tire into the largest supplier of collector car tires and wheels in the world. A man of leadership and integrity, His word was as good as gold. What I didn’t know until his passing last month was the depth of the generosity in his heart and his ability to see other’s through the eyes of Jesus.

Over 3000 people attended the visiting service at the funeral home in Chattanooga. They stood in line for long hours in order to pay their respects to a man who had made a difference in their lives. When his sons and daughter would ask how they knew Dad, the stories flowed.

“ I couldn’t afford new tires, and told Harold that, but he told me to give me what I had. He put tires on my car and gave me $10 back…”

“ I had no money to get new tires, so Harold put me on a payment plan. After paying $20 for three months, he said my account was paid off…”

“He gave me a job when no one else would…”

“I didn’t have the courage to go into business on my own, but Harold walked me through and mentored me as I began the journey…”

Harold Coker chose well, led well, and finished well. He left a legacy of faith, integrity, leadership, generosity, and family.

Unfortunately, only 1 in 3 leaders finishes well. (Dr. Robert Clinton) Some crash and burn from a lack of integrity. Others make poor choices in life and leadership and never achieve the potential their lives represented.

If you want to finish well, you have to start at the finish line. What choices are you making each day? What are you learning from others? How do you pour your life experiences and wisdom into the next generation? What legacy will you leave for those around you?

 

Nine Minute Moments

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In my last blog, I shared the painful struggle of being fired over 20 years ago. As a result, I began a 20+ year journey of learning to choose well, lead well, and finish well.

Being fired all those years ago was an incredibly painful experience. I lost confidence in my abilities, felt like a total failure, and simply wanted to crawl into a dark cave and lick my wounds. I seriously thought about giving up my YMCA career and starting all over in a new field. I had to make a choice. While on the surface the choice was between two career options, in reality it was a choice to either pull out of the self-criticizing death spiral I was in or let failure win. When you’re in the never ending cycle of defeating thoughts, it’s pure choice to replace those negative thoughts with ones that start to speak truth to your soul about who you are and Whose you are. Choose truth.

Last month, a former colleague and friend asked me to attend his retirement celebration. I put it on my calendar, but when the day arrived I started to hear excuses building in my head:

  • It would take 40 minutes to get downtown.
  • Parking would be atrocious.
  • I had so much to do, that not going would make my day much easier.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because I had wrestled with a very similar issue a couple of years ago and wrote about it. Yet here I was faced with the same choice. I had choose to remember the lesson I’d learned then – relationships trump to do lists. Choose relationship.

Dan Webster is the founder of Authentic Leadership (www.authenticleadershipinc.com) and a mentor. He has a phrase he uses – nine-minute moments. If you add up all the seconds that first-string NFL players are actually blocking, tackling, throwing, etc,  the total live action in a game is 9-12 minutes. Yet they prepare physically, mentally, and strategically over 80 hours for that one contest in order to raise their potential to make a difference in the football game.

I relate that to our choices. Each and every day we make little choices that don’t seem to have much impact. We choose what meeting to attend, when to speak up, what we listen to, when to confront and when to avoid. The right small choices prepare us for our nine-minute moments. Those times are when relationships hang in the balance, when truth is challenged, when your gut is clenching and your heart pounding because you know making the difficult but right choice has huge consequences – personally and professionally.

What nine-minute moments are you facing? Choose well.

When a Mistake isn’t a Mistake

 

The press conference of Rep.  Weiner was painful to listen to.  His heartfelt apology made it clear he was taking responsibility for the actions he has admitted to taking.  Unfortunately, his choice of words left much to be desired as he called his actions a mistake.  As he continued to talk, it became clear to me he either didn’t know the difference between a mistake and a poor choice – or he’d chosen to use the word ‘mistake” to make his actions sound less serious. 

 Do you know the difference between a mistake and a poor choice?    A mistake is an error, misunderstanding, or misinterpretation.  We make a mistake when we don’t have enough information to do right.   A poor choice occurs when we have enough information to know what not to do(or should know) and do it anyway.  While we need to take responsibility for both mistakes and poor choices, there’s a lot more impact on our character as the result of a poor choice.

Mistake Poor Choice
Bad math on my tax return Choosing not to report income
Misunderstand what you said Choosing to ignore what you said
Stepping wrong off the curb Ignoring the walk signal
  Posting a lewd picture on Twitter
  Taking funds from my employer
  Slamming someone on Facebook

 Many years ago I chose to call in sick instead of teaching a class.  It was a very poor choice and I learned a hard lesson.   I had made a poor choice and I paid a price.  But I also learned something about integrity. 

 How would you define a poor choice ?