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Category Archives: Politics

Check Mate

Many of us grew up playing board games like Monopoly, Sorry and Scrabble and I was no different.  I loved to compete and would always take no prisoners when I played.  If I was going to take the time to set up the game, count out the money or spread out letters then I was going to do everything I could to beat you.  Some of those games actually come in handy later on in life.  They can help you spell, count or even draw.

The game that helps you think though is the age-old game of chess.  Chess takes strategy in order to best your opponent.  You have to be thinking several moves ahead in order to trap the king and ultimately win the game.  One of my favorite clichés is “Checkers vs. Chess” because it differentiates the thinkers.  I have played both games many times and one calls for thinking ahead, several moves ahead, and the other for simply one move at a time.

We hear in sports all of the time how the best players anticipate where the play is going while the average players are playing in the now or where the play is.  Knowing what your next move is going to be, or at the very least what your move options are, will serve you well in this game of life.

I am reminded of a story that I once heard about a very successful preacher in Southern California during the 80’s.  His congregation was growing by leaps and bounds every Sunday and the outside world was really starting to take notice.  One day after another huge Communion Sunday service the pastor was approached by a savvy marketing executive who was interested in purchasing the mailing list of all the church’s members.  Names, addresses and phone numbers were all given a handsome price of $500,000.

Without blinking the pastor told the executive that he had no interest in selling his church members’ personal information to his firm or any other no matter what the price.  This executive would not be denied so he decided to get on the agenda of the church’s next board meeting.  At the meeting the board was furious to learn that the pastor had turned down the rich financial offer without consulting with them first.  They were excited about all of the changes for the better that could be made at the church with that amount of money.  They were not very concerned with the privacy of their members as they were for the enrichment of their coffers.

Unfortunately the board was unable to accept the marketing executive’s offer without the agreement of the sitting pastor.  Some wise board members wrote that into board policy decades ago and now it was keeping the board from moving forward today.  The pastor knew the rules were on his side so he dug in and refused to move from his position.

The fact that the board did not want to share this information with the church membership really upset the pastor because he felt that they had a right to know their personal information was being sold to a third-party for a hefty sum.  The board now found themselves in an unwinnable position.  They could not get the pastor to budge and they certainly did not want the membership to know their plans.

With the board’s frustration mounting daily, a few of them decided to approach the pastor’s wife.  Surely she could convince him to see things their way and let the payoff go forward.  They argued nightly and the pastor shared his disappointment in his wife with her taking the board’s side against him.  She thought that they could benefit financially from the transaction and her greed got the best of her.  She was playing checkers.

The battle between the board and the pastor continued on for weeks until the board decided their only recourse was to have the pastor removed in favor of a sitting pastor that would okay their transaction with the marketing firm.  The entire church membership would participate in this historical vote and just like most elections not all of the members came out to support their pastor.  Most figured he would win in a landslide and then the board would go through a shake up of its own.

Well as luck would have it, the pastor’s detractors came out in full force but his backers were a little less motivated.  They figured he would be fine and he wasn’t.  The vote was very close and, believe it or not, the decision to oust the beloved pastor came down to just one vote…the one cast by his wife.  She sided with the church board and not her husband so now he was out.

What she did not realize immediately was that she was out as well.  There was no financial windfall realized by her betrayal.  In fact, the result was just the opposite.  The church sent someone to retrieve the couple’s beautiful Cadillac as it was paid for by the church.  The pastor’s wife was even more shocked when the sheriff came knocking at her door to inform her that she would have to vacate the premises in a timely manner.  The church paid the mortgage on their home and now that home was there for the new pastor and his family.

Now it all made sense to her that she was out too but it was too late.  Had she stood strong with her husband she would not have lost her home, her car and soon thereafter, her marriage.  The pastor was down for a few months but his faith sustained him while he founded a new church and soon went on to marry again.  He lived another twenty years of church and marital bliss before he died suddenly of a heart attack.

Thousands of people turned out to attend his funeral which was held in of all places, the very church that had ousted him decades ago.  You see, the membership declined under the leadership of the replacement pastor and some members got wind of the church board’s greedy manuever regarding their personal information and went to worship elsewhere.

Everyone lost in that transaction many years ago.  The church lost a charismatic leader and their membership growth.  The marketing firm never converted the data or sold the membership the products and services they had hoped so they lost.  The pastor’s traitorous wife lost most of all and then died alone.  The pastor did recover nicely because he was a pretty good chess player.  He didn’t see wis wife’s betrayal coming but because he knew it was an option her move didn’t sink him.

The pastor often spoke to his church members about strategic thinking with regards to their faith.  If they expected to one day end up in heaven they would have to stay a few moves ahead.  Ahead of the devil.  Ahead of the flesh.  Ahead of their futures sins.  Because if they died while playing checkers, their name was probably not going to be called at those pearly gates.  Think about it…a few moves ahead.

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The Village

When I reflect on my life soon after my birthday each year, I always come away feeling blessed beyond imagination.  I have been to great destinations like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and I have even been to war-torn countries all because of the relationships that I built in my former life as a financial advisor.  I won’t name names here just because this story will lose the point that I want to bring home but most of you will be able to figure out who the players are in this story.

It happened about five years ago as I was looking forward to taking a trip to Paris to witness a basketball game featuring NBA stars vs. France’s National team.  The game was being played to benefit my friend’s grand opening of his hospital in his village in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).  The guaranteed donation from this event was $6,000,000.00 for the hospital but I was certain that the total would be closer to ten million dollars when the event was over.  I was even working on a seven-figure contribution from my own company since they were headquartered in Paris, France.  I had the chance to help a great cause and create greater name recognition for my own company so I was excited.

One day as I was attending an event for the benefit of the Martin Luther King,Jr. monument in DC, I ran into my friend and asked him where I should stay in Paris and a few more logistical questions when he hit me with a bombshell…the event had been canceled.  I couldn’t believe what he was telling me because he was so calm and matter-of-fact about it but it was true.  So of course I questioned him about what happened and he told me simply that France’s greatest basketball player was getting married the week before and would be on his honeymoon and would not be able to play in the game.  Without him France pulled the plug on the event and the guaranteed donation as well.

This unbelievable conversation takes place while we are in the VIP line to take a photo with the Secretary of State and I’m getting animated while he remains calm and cool as a cucumber.  A man standing behind us in line decides to throw in his two cents and, to my surprise, it is a former heavyweight boxing champion of the world.  He jumps in with both feet and can’t believe what he’s hearing.  All that money that wouldn’t go to my friends hospital was just unacceptable to him.

As we gathered more details we found out that the honeymoon was going to be in nearby Italy.  We wondered why this basketball star couldn’t just fly up for the event, dribble a basketball for 5 minutes and then return to his honeymoon.  Turned out he was willing to do it but his fiancée was not.  He begged her but she wouldn’t budge and so without her flexibility or willingness to compromise the charity basketball game was doomed.

By this time, we had all taken our photos with Mr. Secretary and were off in a corner trying to think of something and who joins in the conversation?  The Secretary of State for the US joins in on the barrage of whys and why nots.  I am sitting there just soaking all this in.  I’m friends with a very popular NBA star and we are joined by a former heavyweight champion and the Secretary of State working on this problem like it’s a world peace summit.  I was one of them.  Just a man with an opinion on how to reach an accord with this charity event.  It was awesome.

I was of the opinion that the fiancée, who is a famous actress on a highly rated TV show, was making a huge mistake right on the heels of her marriage.  I told the guys that even though the player was going along with her wishes, he would always resent her for forcing his hand at backing out of a commitment that effected so many people.  My friend took all of our advice and the ultimate reality of his situation in stride and just said he would get the money from some other sources.  Right then and there I told him “now that Paris is off I guess I will see you in the Congo!”  He smiled and gave me a huge hug for my support and the decision was set in stone.

If you are wondering what happened to the marriage, you guessed correctly.  They divorced after being married about three years.  I am not surprised because I knew the seed of “relationship destruction” was planted way back in May of 2007 when a bride-to-be had an awesome opportunity to be a hero in France and the Congo but instead chose to be selfish and, what some might call, a bridezilla.

In July of 2007, I journeyed to the Democratic Republic of Congo to be present when my buddy’s ribbon cutting ceremony for his hospital took place.  It was a crazy trip and I just cannot go into all the details in this post.  Did I mention that a civil war was ceased for a few weeks so that this event could take place?

I caught several planes after departing on Saturday and finally arriving at my hotel on Monday afternoon.  The ceremony took place the following morning and on Thursday I was back in the air headed for the good old US of A.  Only Tuesday and Wednesday were spent with me not being on an airplane…amazing huh?  Seven day trip and 5 of them I spent traveling to and from.

I enjoyed visiting my friend’s childhood village.  He always wanted to be a doctor and that’s why he came to the US.  Then a championship coach spotted him on campus and gave him a dream that could help another one come true; play basketball and make millions so that you can go home a hero and help those in your village in need of medical care.  He did just that and he’s my hero too.

Me and my buddy in the Congo, July 2007

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Life, Politics, Relationships, Sports

 

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Power Management

You can do amazing things with it but you probably won’t. If you are like most you will use it to benefit yourself and your agenda and not much more. And sooner or later, when you need it the most, it will not be there to save you. The “it” I speak of is power and I attribute it to the number one reason that promising men and women fall from grace on a regular basis these days.

Literally, everyday you can read about someone who once commanded great power and resources that is now on the brink of ruin. Be it their reputation or their fortune or perhaps both. Their lives will never be the same. The main and often redundant question is always “What were they thinking?” What they were thinking was that the power that they wielded so masterfully for all those years was going once again save the day.

Wouldn’t it be something if colleges and universities offered a course or maybe even a minor in Power Management 101? No one really teaches us as we grow up about money, parenting or power. And why would you bother with power since so few people will ever really achieve any of note in their lifetime?

I for one would like to one day teach a course or two in Power Management at a prestigious college or university. That is after I get a masters degree in the subject myself.

I want to explore just a couple of instances where power, and sometimes the anticipation of power, made a few people do very questionable things. Top of mind right now is the John Edwards case in the courtroom this month. The players and their roles in this circle of power are fascinating to say the least. I will get to that soap opera momentarily but first let me tackle one story that involves my favorite sport…football.

This story is about former University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino. Here’s a guy that was one of the hottest coaches in all of college football and with one selfish decision he lost everything that he had worked so hard to attain.

On April 1st of all days, the coach decided to take his girlfriend out for a spin on his motorcycle. There’s nothing wrong with that I guess except if you are married with children and are the highest paid public employee in the entire state. As luck would have it, the coach and his pretty young thing crashed that day while taking a curve on a state highway. Now the coach was in quite a fix. He knew that this accident had to be reported and that he had to be treated for his injuries.

It is often said that the cover up is always worse than the crime and I would agree. When you are caught living a lie, your natural instinct is to lie to cover your tracks. When you are in a position of power you find that it is easier to get out of these types of jams because people who benefit from your power want to believe and help you. What happens sometimes is that those who don’t benefit from your power get involved in investigating your lies and then it all begins to unravel.

We have all seen people in power positions get out of a jam and we have seen them go down in flames. What determines who makes it through and who doesn’t is power management. Those who make it through quickly identify who holds their fate in their hands and they come clean with that person or persons. If the relationship with that key person is good or even great then a cover up can be successfully completed. If not then your goose is cooked.

Well, in the head coach’s case, that key person was his athletic director. By now you know the coach chose not to come clean with his AD.  And after the details were shared through all major media outlets the coach’s fate rested squarely in his AD’s hands. The AD took a few days to gather all of the embarrassing details and then he had to make a decision. Given the ugliness of what the AD uncovered, the decision was made less complicated.

He fired the coach. He decided to make the University of Arkansas bigger, and more powerful, than the head football coach. It wasn’t easy because the school could be on the brink of a national title. Their two toughest games are in their building next year so firing your head coach could be costly in your pursuit of a national championship. I believe he fired the coach because he knew the coach would one day cost him his own job.

He found out the head coach didn’t care about his own job. If he did why would he risk losing a contract worth $3.5 million a year and all of the adulation that comes with running a Top 5 college football program? Also lost was an $18 million buyout of his contract because he was fired for cause. Oh, and the girlfriend worked at the university as well. Had a sweet gig too. She got it because the coach handed it to her, over more than 150 other candidates it was revealed during the AD’s investigation.

The girlfriend was engaged to another university employee and scheduled to marry in June of this year. How would you like to be that guy? So let’s tally up the damage shall we? Head coach is out of a job and millions of dollars and his reputation is shot. His girlfriend is forced to resign and given severance in exchange for her silence. Fiancée of girlfriend is out of a job as well and all because one man decided his needs were more important than the university, the fans, his wife, his kids etc. Oh, and did I mention his brother was a coach on the football staff? Stay tuned for his fate.

Next up is the story of John Edwards. Right now John is in court looking down the barrel of 30 years imprisonment for violating campaign financing laws. John was so disillusioned by his power that he made the decision to have an affair, hire his mistress as his videographer and then father a child with the mistress. He did all this while he was making a run for President of the United States and caring for his wife who was battling cancer.  Again, what was he thinking?

I believe he was thinking that he could get away with it because everyone that saw the affair evolve also benefited from his power. Why would they turn him in when they needed him to get the nation’s top job? When the walls started to close in he didn’t panic, he just got his top aide to take responsibility for his love child. The aide goes along with the charade because he wants to go to the white house. The aide’s wife goes along with it because she wants to go to the white house. John’s dying wife goes along with the affair and then the love child because she wants to be the FLOTUS.

See how power has corrupted all those around the two original conspirators? It gets worse. John now has powerful friends funding the charade to the tune of nearly $1 million. There are two big “donors” that we know of and one is now deceased. The other is a bank heiress who is 101 years old. Those funds allowed the aide and his wife to hide the pregnant mistress as they traveled around the US evading reporters and their opposition who are now starting to piece the story together.

Next week John’s defense team will attempt to convince a jury that he knew nothing about the raising of the funds which paid to hide his mistress’ whereabouts. He is facing 30 years in prison but John already knows he won’t be found guilty. He’s is a lawyer and he knows how this lawyer game is played. The team with the best lawyers wins, regardless of the crime or the stakes.

His team, who is also being assisted by his oldest daughter, will not call the mistress and they will not call John to testify. They will question the heck out of all of the co-conspirators and make them look like hapless liars and when the smoke clears he will walk away with a much damaged career and reputation but no jail time.

Just think that if John Edwards could have exercised better power management he could have possibly become our President. In the end he had too many people involved in his deception. Once too many people know or suspect wrongdoing the conspiracy becomes difficult if not impossible to control. That is what power is all about. Once you get the power you become consumed with the fear of losing what? Your power. I know how much I miss…

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Business, Life, Politics, Sports