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The Third Option

May 20, 2020
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It’s been several months of personal “earthquakes” and global pandemic, but work goes on at Apple Awards. There are so many new heroes to recognize!  Owner, Dennis Smith gets back to his blog as one small step toward the new normal. He asks the questions “How do we find our way in a polarized society?”  “Can we come up with that third option?”

It’s interesting that many people who speak out publicly, via news or social media, hold strong biases on their subject.  Once we hear something that makes sense to us, we have the tendency (or maybe a better word is audacity) to think we are an authority on the subject. At that point, we shut down all other thinking on the matter. I hold the opinion that most of us do not even realize we do this.

A Third Option Expert

In the Gospel letters, as recorded in the Bible, we see Jesus deal with people who thought they had it all figured out. He exposed their error and countered them, turning their world upside down. His answers were typically not in favor of the righteous or the sinner but he showed them a third option, a better way, the way of creation and truth. 

We Divide

For some inexplicable reason, we humans have this tendency to want to feel like we have found the secret. We want to be the chosen, to whom truth has been revealed.  Then we proceed to discount and exclude others who think differently. We unintentionally create a dividing line, “my way or the highway”. I use the word “unintentionally” loosely here to describe most people. But I do recognize there is evil present and it’s main purpose is to divide with intention. 

We Fear

One way evil does this is through fear. Author Andy Stanley states, “Fear always invites us to follow the path of self preservation”. Just like most things, fear has a useful purpose, to keep us safe. It also has a not so useful purpose, to create selfishness (hoarding the toilet paper) and disregard the needs or ideology of others. 

Figuring it out…

I would love to tell you that I have this all figured out, but I don’t. But I am learning to look for mentors that I know have actually taken the time to look at and consider both sides of an issue. They usually have chosen a third option, a stand that does not alienate the right or the left (but possibly both), a stand that takes the needs of different people, walking in different shoes, into consideration. 

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Choosing A Response

July 11, 2019
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Frustrated woman looking at cell phone, considering how to respond.

I struggle with crafting a good response when my paradigm of the world is challenged. But, how I respond is an important factor when representing the organizations I help lead. The easiest “out” is to be silent and not engage in the conversation, especially publicly in places like social media. 

But staying silent does not help change the world, and it just makes me feel like a coward. 

Whenever I am faced with the temptation to respond harshly to an opposing world view, I like to do what I call a “heart check” of myself. These are the thought strategies I’ve found most helpful:

  • Play the devil’s advocate and seek to understand the other party. If I were in their shoes (had grown up where or when they did) would I see it differently? I remember often being very critical of my parent’s conservative handling of their possessions. But I did not grow up during one of our nation’s worst economic depressions. They did. 
  • Consider the end goal. Is my goal to change the other party’s mind or tear them down and make them look like a fool? When I do the latter I most always end up looking and feeling like the fool myself.
  • If I am honest, am I able to identify any good motives in the other person’s position? Knowing that there are good intentions does not always bring agreement. However, it sure opens the door to understanding and a civil debate of the issues.

If these measures bring no hope of understanding, or making the other person feel understood, then my wisest choice might be to not engage in the discussion. The engagement will possibly just make me angry and bitter, and I don’t want that spilling over into my other relationships. 

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Proverbs 17:28

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Who Is a True Patriot?

July 5, 2019
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Who is a true patriot?
You would think it would be easy to be a true patriot in a free country like the USA. Who doesn’t want this kind of freedom? Who doesn’t want to live in this kind of country?

But with freedom comes the inherent right to be an independent thinker. If we are both thinking independently, what you think is loyal and just, may not be what I think is loyal and just. What is really interesting is that two people, who fundamentally believe the same things, can have totally different responses when their beliefs are challenged.

In every country there is a tension between individuals, people groups, generations, schools, religions, cities, states and political groups.  But in a free country this tension is often created by our freedom to speak out in accordance with our beliefs, values, and loyalties. It becomes apparent that we don’t all have the same beliefs, don’t agree about what we should value and don’t have the same priorities when it comes to loyalty.                                                                                                                                                                                    
So this week, as we celebrate our independence, are we truly able to be grateful for this independence that allows others to think differently than we think, to have a different world view, a different sense of what it means to be patriotic? Do we have a spirit that allows a humble, kind response to the differences and the tension created by our freedom? Good questions for this holiday weekend. Have a wonderful Independence Day! 

Give generously and love, expecting nothing in return.

A patriot knows we must live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.
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Your Role Matters: Being the “Other Guy”

May 2, 2019
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There are times when we break from a role because it seems meaningless to us when in reality it is exactly where we should be, because it is preparing us for something better. Even if that something is simply a lesson.

A Story

Back in high school I was a part of a club. Well, it wasn’t officially a club, it was just something two of my basketball teammates and I made up. We were the OG’s, short for “other guys”.

The three of us got a lot of time on the court during JV games and made up the heart of the scout team, the group of players that would run the offense or defense that our next varsity opponent would likely run against us. However, we rarely got into a varsity game. We were always asked to suit up for the varsity games, in addition to playing on the JV team, and maybe, late in the game, if we happened to be fortunate enough to be far enough ahead, the coach would lean over and look down the bench and say “hey, you other guys, get up here.” That’s how we got our name.

Truthfully I did not mind playing JV or being on the scout team. I took my role very seriously and worked really hard at it, in hopes that I might earn a chance to play a more meaningful role in a varsity game. It never happened. I decided not to go out for the team my senior year. At that time seniors did not get to play JV ball and I just could not stand the thought of putting in all that time and effort and not getting to play the game.

My senior year I signed up for track, a huge disappointment to me.  I was not in the best physical condition and in spite of good intentions of working out (during those evenings free of basketball practice) the discipline and conditioning of basketball practice was missing. I was not at my best.

The Takeaway

To this day I regret that decision. First, I let myself quit based on my perception that “playing time” in the game was the most important thing. Second, I failed to see how my participation in basketball prepared me for much different roles, later in life.  

The lesson was clearer to me as I became a coach and employer. I realized, with great appreciation, the roles held by players on my teams. I learned the importance of showing appreciation, in every possible way.  Now, I try to share with them how their participation might prepare them for the future in other endeavors. To me, they are more than just those “other guys”.


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Dealing with Trust Issues

April 26, 2019
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When I find myself in a situation where wrong has been committed under my authority whether intentional or not, the quickest and best way back to forgiveness and trust is through a plan.

When Something Goes Wrong

Recently I had a customer contact me regarding a recent charge made by my business on their credit card. Three months prior they had made a purchase from us, but not recently. It was not a large purchase, but a purchase nonetheless.

Pausing in this story, I have to give these people credit for how well they monitor their finances. This was not one or two weeks later when they reconciled their statement. This was the very day the charge was made.

Now this greatly alarmed me. We take people’s trust in us very seriously, especially when it comes to handling their sensitive financial information. At first I had a sense of disbelief that accidentally charging the wrong person’s credit card was even possible. But, as I soon found out, it had happened, and it was due to an unforeseen breakdown in how we processed charges. I won’t go into all the details, but it is worth noting that even though we had this system in place for years without problems, the problem was apparent now and needed fixing.

Turning Problems into Opportunities

Thinking that customer relations problems were opportunities to build trust, we have always handled resolution by doing the right thing, fixing the product or refunding their money. But for some reason, in this situation, it did not feel like enough. It wasn’t because I had thought it through or heard advice about it. I just knew that we needed to fix the system and then share that information with the customer, to demonstrate that we had a conscious plan of correction for the future.

Building Trust

I was right. The customer quickly responded with gratitude. She had received a brief but detailed plan of prevention and was assured that the mistake would not occur again. And, of course, the charge was quickly reversed on her credit card.  

There has been so much to learn from this situation. When faced with a problem that involves trust, actually sharing a corrective plan of action with the wronged party goes way beyond just making it right by doing the right thing.


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Why Write? An Invitation to Generosity

March 21, 2019
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Why write?

Dennis, of Apple Awards, is getting courageous with his writing and wants others to be encouraged to do the same. He’s thinking about why he’s been holding back, and why he’s writing now. Read on…

Nothing to Offer?

So why is it that I feel the need to write my thoughts in this blog? Is it because I know so much, that I must impress you, so you can have success and fame? This is hardly the case, and actually, the near opposite is true. Writing my thoughts and experiences is one of the scariest things I have done to date. There is this small voice in my head that tells me that I have nothing to offer others. Have you heard that voice saying the same thing to you?

Afraid of What Others Think?

I have always enjoyed writing a Christmas letter at the end of each year to send to family, friends and relatives. Outside of the worries of spelling things correctly and using proper grammar, this felt like an easy task to me because I was just writing about actual events that had taken place over the past year. That’s simple right? Well, not really because when I write about others in the family, I don’t know if they approve, and to write only about myself feels self centered and narcissistic. These negative thoughts, true or  not, have kept me from writing for the past several years.

Sharing Life As an Act of Generosity

Back to my blog, This blog’s intent is not to tell anyone how they should live, lead, do business, or coach. It’s not to show people that they are loved and appreciated.  I believe the ways to effectively do these things are as numerous as the stars in the sky. I now write as an act of generosity. Yes, to share one’s thoughts, feelings and experiences, I believe, can be a very generous act. Just the fact that deep down I wonder if I have anything to offer, should not keep me from offering what I have. Whether it is of any use to you, “the reader”, is not for me to decide. But if for some reason it is, shouldn’t I muster up the courage to put it out there?

Why I Write

Up to this point in my life I have kept a journal as a simple act of reflection and working things out in my own head. I haven’t worried about spelling, grammar or making sense to anyone but myself, because I was the only reader. I always found this simple habit to be therapeutic and beneficial to my own soul.

Now I am going to be brave and generous by sharing some (not all) of those thoughts, experiences and lessons with you, my friends. No pressure, as I know it’s not for everyone, but  thank you for considering that it may be for someone, maybe not you, but for someone you know and care about. I have benefited so much from reading what others have generously shared with me through books, blogs, videos and social media posts that I desire to give back. That is why I write.

And so, as my good friend Gary always says, “Life is a gift…. live it!” I would humbly add “ and share it”.

You Are Invited

You are invited, as difference makers, leaders, family members, friends, business associates or total strangers to subscribe to my blog. I feel compelled to share my experience and encouragement, as an entrepreneur, leader, and youth sports coach, with those who might benefit from it.  I will post once a week, on Friday mornings for now (maybe twice if something really exciting is happening). Each post will be short, a few paragraphs, and include an applicable experience or thought for you to contemplate. After reading (five minutes at the most) I want you to feel free to respond with your thoughts or experience as an act of generosity to fellow readers on the subject or simply share if it was of any use to you.


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Leadership Team – Try It!

March 14, 2019
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Is good leadership the result of good people skills or experience? Which trait of a good leader is most important? The obvious answer is both, they are equally important.

People Skills?

If I were to choose a coach for my children’s team I would ideally chooses someone who was relationaly healthy, could cast vision, build trust, establish loyalty with a high commitment level,  and understand the generation they lead. I would choose someone who was humble, had a heart of service, and was full of love.


At the same time I would look for someone who had a lot of first hand experience.  They would have had years playing the game, or many years of coaching and mentoring. Their experience would have led to a good working knowledge of the fundamentals, the rules and the tactical options of the game. I think we would all agree that we would love to play for a coach like this.

Or, switch to the workplace. Maybe this is our employer. We would love to have a boss like this, wouldn’t we?

The unfortunate reality is that there are more leadership positions out there than there are people, gifted in both of these arenas, to fill them. I would actually contend that this person is extremely rare, if they exist at all. So what is the answer?

How to Have It All

I believe it is the team builder. The team builder is someone who has enough people skills and enough technical knowledge to be “dangerously proficient” but is humble enough to surround herself/himself with others who can make up for each other’s deficiencies. Creating and organizing like this can be difficult and messy, but once it has been accomplished it can be a much stronger form of leadership than the single talented, dynamic leader.

A leadership team where there is trust, accountability and diversity has the potential to be  a strong form of leadership simply because there is more ability to withstand the troubled times.  A well crafted and balanced team can lose it’s best player and still remain competitive. A team that depends wholly on the gifts and talents of one player crumbles when that player goes down.

Play Your Part

Are you a team builder? Or more likely, and maybe even more importantly, are you a part of a team someone else is building? Both positions require good choices on the part of the individual. Learn and grow daily so you can bring your best to the team in whatever capacity you may serve. Being part of a leadership team is belonging to something bigger than yourself.  It’s an important part of bringing purpose and meaning to life through your everyday work.

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Financial Rule - Budget

Two Simple Financial Rules for Entrepreneurs

March 7, 2019
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Why I Have Never Had a Budget

I have a hard time admitting this but I have never actually had a financial budget, personally or for any of my businesses.

I am not endorsing or recommending my approach to handling finances but, in my experience, I have always struggled to see value in creating a budget, especially when I would just ignore it anyway. My thinking has always been, how do I take advantage of potential opportunities if I am bound by a budget? There is no line item in most budgets for “unexpected opportunity” costs!  

Maybe this is just the plight of an entrepreneur –  I never know exactly how much it might cost to make a new opportunity work out, or if it does work, how much profit will there be in the end? Without knowing these things how can I budget for them? I have been on church and organizational boards where a budget has been a necessity and a very good thing. I can see the value of this whole process in many situations. But for my endeavors and unconventional approach I just could not seem to make it feel like it was worth it.

Or  maybe I am just foolish and a bit crazy.

So you might ask, if you don’t have a budget how do you manage your finances?  I have a couple of simple rules and they have worked well for me.

Rule 1

I will not carry any debt that does not produce,or have the potential to produce, income. I use credit cards but do not carry debt on them. Autos or “toys”are not things I want to carry debt on either, because they don’t produce income or appreciate in value. The exception to this was my home mortgage. I have to have a place to live and this is one of the few non-income producing purchases that is highly likely to have the same or increased value over the purchase price when I decide to sell it.

Rule 2

Always be building some form of net worth through a income producing business, rental property or real estate investment. Again the guideline for me has been that these investments have to not only pay their own way, but they need to also provide enough cash to pay my living expenses, mortgage and credit card bill.

In the early years I had to start my first business while I had a day job working for my father’s excavating business. Once the business matured to the point where it could support my living expenses, I quit my day job and started another business. Get the picture? One business would support me until the new business could become profitable. In some cases I had to abandon the idea because it wasn’t working. A few times I got to a place where I could not meet my expenses or pay my credit card balance in full. That was my red warning flag. I needed to spend less, earn more, or sell something. But either way, I benefited.  I would build something of value or I would learn a valuable lesson.

This process worked well for me because it forced me to live within my means yet, at the same time, save through the equity I was gaining in my assets. An asset to me is something that produces regular income, pays its own operating expenses, and over time will sell for at least its original purchase price (and, in all likelihood, more). This is how I have intentionally attempted to build lasting wealth. Slow and steady over time.

Is a strict line item budget a wise strategy for you? It may be, but for me and my financial planning, these simple rules have been the most valuable.  


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Growning is serious business, always. Design

Keeping a Growth Mindset

February 5, 2019
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If you’re not moving forward or growing, you may be standing still or even moving backwards. What does this mean? I probably don’t have to explain to you what growth looks like. It is a condition of the mind, it is intuitive to life and anyone knows if they are growing or not. The hard part is admitting lack of growth and doing something about it. Choosing to grow is a  choice, like exercising or eating healthy.

Reality is that the world, and the way we do things, is changing faster and faster.  Keeping up with the pace can be really hard. Since I contend that a growth and service mindset is essential to relevance in today’s marketplace, I had to consider the “keeping up” factor before I went into business. Here’s how that looked for me.

Both award businesses I bought were at a point where they were experiencing years of declining sales. A small business naturally loses a few customers every year due to attrition. Customers die, they retire and move on to other employment. But the key to a healthy business is whether it can consistently replace those customers lost to attrition with new customers.

Don’t misunderstand, both of my businesses still had many good loyal customers. Their products, for the most part, were good. The service they provided was good and relevant. Those were the reasons I bought them. Both businesses, in my opinion, were declining because their owners were either unable, for various reasons, to keep up with the changing structures and technologies in today’s business world. These were growth problems.

Just to clarify, growth is not always about making things bigger. Sometimes it’s a requirement just to keep things the same. For example, a business may be in a geographic area or a competitive market where there are only so many customers, and this is okay. But growing is still  necessary to address natural attrition and keep the customer base large enough for the business to remain viable.

Even when I was working for someone, growth was no less important. I knew if I didn’t grow I could become irrelevant and easily replaceable. The best book I have ever read regarding this is Linchpin by Seth Godin.

This brings me back to purpose, if you have a purpose for doing what you do, I believe you will naturally want to learn and grow to satisfy that purpose.  Your purpose could be as simple as providing for your family, or as difficult as providing clean drinking water for people that don’t have any. Both purposes changes the world for the better, today and tomorrow.

What to do? Are you continuing to grow, learning through curiosity and taking risks? Do you need some inspiration? Check out this video  How ya gonna Live? Answer these questions, and the world will thank you!


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Feel Like Quitting Early? Design

Quitting Under Stress

January 5, 2019
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Feel Like Quitting?

Quitting, in our culture, doesn’t always have a positive reputation.  I was always told that “quitters never win, and winners never quit”. Like a lot of other sayings, this one might need a little evaluation. Should we continue every project, every direction, every goal indefinitely? If not, how do we know when to quit – an idea that has probably crossed all our minds many times. Quitting sounds so attractive during moments of high stress!

I first learned a term, “the dip”, during my enrollment in the altMBA .  It’s a term coined by Seth Godin, the creator of this course. The term may be new but the concept has been around forever and is definitely something that all of us (depending on age) have faced literally hundreds of times in our life. The dip is that moment when something gets so hard that you feel like quitting.

Good NewsThe Dip

Seth wrote a book called “the dip” (yes, all lower case). Under the book title on the cover reads the words A LITTLE BOOK THAT TEACHES YOU WHEN TO QUIT (AND WHEN TO STICK). Wait a minute, is he implying that there are times when it is actually okay to quit when it gets hard? Could it be that at times the best strategy for winning is actually quitting?

Here is the gist of this little book, and you don’t even have to pay me for the two hours it took me to read it. This is free, late Christmas gift from Seth and I. Use it wisely and by all means share it.  Quitting, as a short term strategy, just because you’re in a dip, is a bad idea.  Quitting as a long term strategy, for good reasons, can be an excellent idea. 

 “Never quit something with great long term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment” Seth Godin



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