Perpsective, Podcast

Journey With Me Through Cambodia

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[Left To Right] Jim Cavale, Lindsey Sillers (ITF Brentwood), Frank Adair (ITF Mountain Brook), Jessica Parks (ITF Corporate), Caleb Burchfield (ITF Vestavia), Wes & Anna Archer (ITF Belmont), Mark Whitehead (ITF 280) and Allen Rice (ITF Johns Creek).

I recently returned from a nine day Neverthirst trip to Cambodia, with an incredible team of coaches and athletes from multiple Iron Tribe markets.

For me, it was a chance to go to a new place I had never been, in a poverty-stricken nation that experiences life in a much different manner. It was also a chance for me to grow my faith, through a growing dependence on God in prayer, that is much harder to have here in America.

In the United Nations’ most recent Human Development rankings, Cambodia was 144th out of the 188 countries on the planet (U.S. was 8th).

When you go to a place like Cambodia, you immediately dismiss your desire for “wants” and you start to focus on simply meeting your “needs.” Our group agreed to take things a step further, by agreeing to a theme of “flexibility” for the entire trip, knowing that we weren’t there to be served, but to serve.

The team embraced this philosophy, as we prayed about it repetitively, talked about it in our devotionals each morning, and we ultimately maintained this attitude as a unit throughout our trip abroad in a new land.

Neverthirst did a phenomenal job of planning this trip; establishing context for our work in villages, as we visited the nearly 1,000-year-old Angkor Temples near Siem Reap, and the Killing Fields in capital city Phnom Penh, where the Pol Pot Regime killed more than two million Cambodians in a genocide from 1975 to 1979.

These experiences set the stage for what we saw in the villages we visited and lived in for several days of the trip. It helped us understand the history of the Buddhist religion in Cambodia and the effects of the Pol Pot Regime, which killed the majority of the nation’s educated people in an attempt to force the country to “start back at zero,” just less than 40 years ago.

To quote a book I’m reading right now about Cambodia [Cambodia’s Curse], “you stand in these villages and look around knowing that these villages look exactly the same today, as they did 350 years ago!”

Neverthirst has united with multiple partners in Cambodia, to bring villages clean water through three delivery mechanisms; water wells, biosand filters and rain tanks, depending on multiple factors which determine the best option.

The work we were a small part of, with Neverthirst’s partners for each of these three clean water delivery mechanisms, allowed us to truly connect what you and I get to do with our annual Workout For Water event each year, to the exact latitude and longitude it affects on the other side of the world. It was powerful.

And to actually have our hands touch each of these three clean water delivery mechanisms, by helping to build and install them in these villages – that was more than powerful. It could even be eternal.Because we got to share our faith with so many who have never even heard the name of Jesus Christ, let alone the Good News that He came to save everyone, including them.

We stayed in areas all over the country, including the Vietnam border, where of course, I had to watchApocalypse Now on my laptop before bed. The overall experience I had on this trip, is one I’ll never forget and surely try to repeat in Cambodia or another area of the world in 2017.

But when we debriefed as a team, we were asked to each answer two questions;

“What was your most impactful moment?”

My most impactful moment was when I was working with a group to install a biosand filter for a specific family in one of the villages we visited. While we were installing the filter, the family was living life as they normally would, by using the dirty pond behind their home [a tree house on stilts] for multiple purposes.

As we were putting the finishing touches on the biosand filter, a little boy who is maybe a couple years older than my son James (2), was just getting home from school and decided to go back to the pond with a pan, to get himself a drink of dirty brown water. After all, it was more than 100 degrees temperature at the time. He drank it right in front of me, instead of just waiting a few more minutes as we finished installing the filter that will now bring him and his family clean water for at least the next decade.

This really put things into perspective for me. There were many similar experiences on the trip, but I’ll never forget this one.

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My son James IV drinking from a water source at Spain Park [to the left], while this young boy in Cambodia, drinks from a pan he dipped in a brown pond [to the right].

“What are you going to do about it?”

For me, this is a twofold answer. I have been on the board of a ministry here in Birmingham, called The Aspire Movement (www.AspireMovement.org), for a couple years now, since we launched it at the end of 2014 – we pair adult men from the church, with fatherless children from Birmingham city schools, for a long-term mentorship commitment.

I mentor a young boy, Mekhi, who has become a big part of my family with my wife and three children. I’ve committed to mentor Mekhi through graduation from high school – he is in fourth grade. That’s how our program at Aspire works.

This trip fired me up for the work that is possible with initiatives like Aspire and other local ministries that give us a chance to make an impact here in America. If I go abroad on a trip like this one to Cambodia, for maybe 1-2 weeks a year, I’ve got to challenge myself on what I’m going to do to make an impact the other 50 or so weeks that remain each year.

However, the second part to my answer to this question “What are you going to do about it?”, is that I’m going to tell everyone I can about my trip and about the upcoming Workout For Water on May 14th at Oak Mountain State Park.

After seeing and humbly putting my hands in on the work that is being done, because of the dollars we raise each year at Workout For Water, the event means that much more to me. It is my hope, that reading about my trip, it means that much more to you! You have helped us do something that is truly changing the lives of people on the other side of the world right now and potentially, forever and ever in Heaven. Amen.

Set up your giving profile at WorkoutForWater.com, share it on your social media channels so that your friends can join in on the giving process, and of course, attend the event on May 14th.

Our goal is to raise $400,000 in Birmingham this year, with half of that coming from a matching fund of $200,000 that we have already privately raised. This means that every time you give, or you help somebody from your network give, your giving will be doubled instantly.

So get ready and mark your calendar for May 14th at Oak Mountain State Park, setup your giving profile at WorkoutForWater.com, and start spreading The Good News!

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The most refreshing water I’ve ever touched. This is a water pump provided by Charleston, SC’s Iron Tribe Mount Pleasant gym, owned by Corky Alexander.

You can listen to Jim’s entire journey through Cambodia with the Iron Tribe team and Neverthirst ministries, on the newest edition of the TribeCast podcast. Press Play Below.

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Perpsective

A Message To All My Friends, Regardless Of Race, Religion Or Political Party

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You’ve undoubtedly heard phrases like “you are a product of your environment” OR “you are the result of the 4-5 people that you spend the most time with.” It’s true.

The fact is, we all live in a bubble. Some, much more than others.

I don’t write this in any way, to imply that I am above this problem or that I do not live in a bubble myself. Because I’m aware that I do. In fact, it is my assessment that you and I will always live in a bubble for as long as we are on this earth.

Especially as the wealthy Americans that we are, regardless of our class here in the United States.

However, I do want to state clearly, that I am advocating that we each work to expand our respective bubbles from today on, every single day, for the rest of our lives.  It is my goal to have the biggest damn bubble possible, before I leave this earth for a greater life!

Alright, so now that I’ve opened up with disclaimers [because I’m brain-washed by the media to be politically correct (PC) and tip-toe around offending anyone], here are more facts unfiltered by the PC media; I write them with zero apologies.

Our bubble is defined by our network – a [hopefully] growing sum, comprised by our family, our friends, our co-workers, our church, our fitness community, our volunteer group and those people involved with any other hobbies, activities or pastimes that we participate in on a regular basis.

It’s the people “we do life with.”

Despite the fact that, regardless of our human race, our DNA is 99.9% identical, we tend to do just about all of the activities above with “our objective own kind” aka those from our same human race or regional orientation – the people who talk, look and act the same as we do in most categories of life.

NOTE: It’s objective, because you cannot change your race or place of birth.

How blasphemous of us! Who are we to think that we are so different from those who aren’t the same human race as us, let alone from the same state in America, when God has designed us to be 99.9% identical when it comes our physical makeup?

Not to mention that He obviously had specific intentions in the .01% differences, which I interpret to be because he still wanted to make us all with some unique characteristics [blessings from Him] for some unique reason(s) that still pertain to his ultimate purpose [to bless others in His name for His glory].

But the facts are the facts. More than 87% of us here in “the land of the free,” choose to do things with people who are the same race, from the same place, who talk the same, with the same cultural tastes, etc.

Even though “our own objective kind” is really not our race, it is our humanity. Our human kind, should ultimately transcend race for us, and we should not be afraid to go outside of this boundary that we’ve imposed on ourselves.

Now, before I got any further, I want to provide clarity in stating that I do indeed understand that we are all from a specialized, niche culture within the general human race – that is, we are all from a different race(s). And that each of these niches have their subjective preference and appreciation for specific foods, music, dancing and so on.

This is called culture, and I have a passion for exactly as many cultures as I’ve been blessed to be exposed to, and I hope I’m exposed to more cultures throughout my remaining years here on earth.

It’s understandable that a childhood upbringing in a specific culture will create a unique perspective in each of us, with certain preferences and even biases. I wish we would stop tip-toeing around this fact and own it – we have natural prejudices.

However, the more we expand our bubble to more cultures, the more we dilute these prejudices and are inclined to be biased toward more things and closed to less. Why? Because we’ve related to more cultures!

I’m an Italian-American born in Upstate New York. Nobody has more appreciation for their culture or race than I do. I love the culinary, musical, passionate culture I come from. But despite “the box” many might presume I fit into as an Italian-American; I am not Catholic, I do not participate in mafia activities and I don’t play bocce ball [enough:)], even though many who know my culture, might assume these characteristics about me instantly.

There are things I’ve taken from my culture that I love (ie. our food, our slang, our passion, etc.), but as I referenced earlier, there are other characteristics that my race is known for, which I don’t identify with whatsoever. There are people who will assume that I am somebody in particular, without knowing me, just because of my culture. It can be good and it can be bad.

I could paint the same picture as a completely misunderstood Upstate New Yorker, living in the heart of The South, where people consistently think they know things about me or who I am, before they’ve gotten to know me, just because of where [they think they know] I am from.

Little do they know, I’m from a small town [Syracuse] with great fishing, deer hunting and other activities that happen to be very popular down south. Yet, many people hear me say New York, and they assume I am from Times Square or something!?!

When conversations like these arise, I explain these things patiently and then urge folks to “expand your bubble and take a trip to the northeast.” The northeast and its metro areas are not all concrete and buildings, even though we have do indeed have some beautiful structures in that region of the country.

This goes both ways, however. Although my business and my family are based in Birmingham, Alabama, I travel to cities and markets all over the U.S., and am even challenging myself to travel to countries around the world. No matter where I am, when I explain I’m from Birmingham, the reactions I get never cease to amaze me.

For instance, I was in Boston just yesterday, and I met a woman who happened to be from the same area of New York State as I am. She was shocked [almost appalled] that I would live in Alabama! Of course, I patiently explained how wonderful Birmingham is, and all of the revitalization and growth that is taking place here.

I am blessed to have the perspective of having lived or been to both places, which expands my bubble! Maybe through my story, I can expand her perspective as well.

Just like race and region can be phrased as “our own objective kind,” there is also “our own subjective kind,” which is many times an inherent result of the latter – meaning that “our own objective kind” can determine “our own subjective kind”.

These folks who believe the same as your religiously, have the same taste in fashion and interior design, are members of the same political party, live in the same type of home, attend the same school, enjoy the same type of music, make the same amount of money, etc.

Unfortunately, we tend to spend almost ALL of our time with folks who share these commonalities, which further cement these characteristics in ourselves and further separate us from anyone who is of an alternative characteristic!

Where do you stand when it comes to this?

Assess your personal network, made up of your family, friends, co-workers, church, and fitness community, and ask yourself “How many of the people I spend my time with are different than me objectively and/or subjectively?”

I recently read New Orleans Saints TE Benjamin Watson’s incredible book Under Our Skin and, although I consider myself a pretty diversified person with a decent-size bubble, I was challenged to expand it.

As an African-American male who has excelled in the National Football League for a decade, Watson has used his platform to be an advocate for his race, during the unfortunate racial conflicts that have taken place in Ferguson and other cities throughout our nation over the past few years. However, Watson is ultimately an advocate for the human race and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in this work.

He uses phenomenal anecdotes like this TED Talk from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (almost 10 million views), who talks about the “Danger of a Single Story.” Something we are all at risk of living out, if we don’t challenge ourselves to expand our respective bubble!

My favorite anecdote that Watson uses, is from the movie A Time To Kill, where he describes this scene below.

Watson challenges us to think about when we have taken our families and gone to “the other side of the tracks”, wherever that might be to us, to connect with those who might seem culturally different.

I feel like I’ve challenged myself on this for years, but lately I’ve gotten comfortable. I’m not saying I don’t love my network of fellow-Entrepreneurs, Dads, Republicans, Mentors, Christians, New Yorkers, Italians, African-Americans, Sports Fans, Rock ‘n Roll Lovers, Hip Hop Enthusiasts, etc… (the current circles I am already active within). I do love that I have a network of all these folks and more.

But my bubble can be bigger. I want to experience more cultures and mix them with the one that God’s already blessed me with.

I want to develop compassion for those who feel oppressed, by listening to their perspective instead of assuming I already know “what’s right.”

I would like to understand why others don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross and saved us, even though I’m convinced its the truth and will do whatever it takes for those to hear why I think that.

I am interested in new foods I’ve never tasted before.

I always like hearing new music. I love being in my car and going from Frank Sinatra, to George Michael, to Chris Stapelton, to ColdPlay, to Wu-Tang Clan.

Do we not realize that mixing all of the above is the hybrid that made America?

If we can each challenge ourselves once per week, once per month, or just once in general, to try to be the minority of a new crowd or small group of people that we would not normally associate ourselves with, I guarantee that we can improve the unity that is missing right now in America.

I happen to be blessed to be the President of a growing brand called Iron Tribe, where for 45 minutes each day in our fitness classes, your culture doesn’t mean a thing. We sweat through the grueling workouts together, routing each other on and thus, uniting closer together with new folks that aren’t a different culture but a part of the same one.

I’m also blessed to be a board member of The Aspire Movement, a mentoring ministry that connects two at-risk groups together in The Church, where we recruit adult men to become mentors to Fatherless Children, who need a positive male figure in their life.

These experiences have opened my eyes even more than moving to Alabama from New York, just 13 years ago. I’m convicted that I need to expand my bubble. This blog is a call to action for you to join me.

Let’s get this country back to the melting pot it once was. I guarantee that, if we did this, the hateful either/or society that media continues to cultivate today, will transcend into a society where right and wrong mean much less and compassion for our fellow man means much more.

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Mentors, Perpsective

Don’t Disregard The Turtle

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I recently had the chance to get back up to Syracuse, New York, where I was fortunate to grow up and live for the first 20 years of my life.

While I was there, I headed to the north side to spend some time with Coach Dotterer, a guy who’s impact on me will forever live within my story and the story of my wife and three kids.

It was merely 13 years ago that I left Syracuse on a whim, when I sat in the liquor store of my high school baseball coach, Tom Dotterer, in tears because of the confused state of growing up that I was enduring as a then 20-year-old kid trying to figure out this thing we call life.

After two years at Ithaca College, I was frustrated because I was not getting playing time on the baseball diamond and I was also not accepted into Ithaca’s acclaimed Park School of Communications; these were the two reasons I attended Ithaca in the first place, and I had decided I didn’t want to be there anymore.

Coach Dotterer urged me to consider traveling down to the University of Montevallo (UM), a small college in the heart of the south, just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. His daughter had attended UM just a decade before this moment I was sitting down in front of him in the summer of 2002, and Coach Dotterer had high regard for the school and their baseball program.

I had already been accepted to a pretty prominent academic institution in Hamilton College, and it was only a few weeks before enrollment for my junior year, but I thought “what do I have to lose? I’m gonna do this.”

So I did.

On August 4, 2002, I flew down to UM, tried out, received a scholarship offer from the baseball coach and two weeks later, I was in Alabama. I’ve been here ever since.

I had life-changing experience at UM, where I graduated in 2005, and sewed my leadership and entrepreneurial roots. But ultimately, I trusted Coach Dotterer, took a chance and became a man, all through this experience.

I’m one of hundreds of young boys that Coach Dotterer molded and impacted. But it isn’t just the impact he has had, its the way he’s gone about it. He is a philosopher who teaches with parables and riddles that will sometimes make sense instantly, and other times, take years for you to comprehend.

He would rather you learn from the journey than from his direct instruction, even though he has many words of instruction he can bestow upon you, with the wisdom he’s gathered from his diverse experiences and ongoing obsession with books – he also owns a book store next to his liquor store, which is now closed, but he boasts “has the widest selection of books published long before this current era.”

Now, as CBA raises a fund to build a new on-campus baseball complex, those of us who have been impacted by Coach Dotterer, are coming together to support it with our dollars and with our stories. Like mine, they are woven together into our adult lives in ways that will pass on his impact to our children, friends, colleagues, employees, customers and many others.

When I graduated from CBA in 2000, Coach Dotterer gave me a gift – a green porcelain turtle. I asked him why this was my gift and he told me that I am the turtle. I have a hard shell to endure the challenges that come my way, I am sometimes slower than those around me, but in the end I will win.

Powerful moment.

I’ll never forget that and I’ll always remember the impact Coach had on me to yearn to be the best version of myself each day I wakeup. It is the reason that my personal purpose in life is to help all of those God puts around me, to be the best versions of themselves.

If you want to support Coach Dotterer’s movement, his legacy and the CBA baseball program that has had such a big impact on all of us who have gone through his program, simply visit this link to give.

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Evangelical, Mentors, Perpsective, The Gospel

Insignificance: We Are All At Risk

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I first met Jason Williams in early 2011 at an interest meeting for men who desired to mentor the fatherless youth within Birmingham’s inner-city communities. It was there that we all heard of the Mercy Street Ministry mentorship model that had been taking place in Dallas which involved a 6-9 year commitment from each mentor to his or her respective mentee, beginning somewhere during that mentee’s fourth, fifth, or sixth grade school year.

Jason and I stayed in touch every few months since that first meeting in 2011 as he had been growing his own version of a Mercy Street Ministry that God put on his heart to cultivate in our Birmingham communities: The Aspire Movement. After multiple visits together at my Iron Tribe Fitness offices in downtown Birmingham, it was clear that God had called Jason [and me] to go all-in on what Jason experienced in his pilot for Aspire.

Look no further than Jason’s story to see how incredible God’s sovereignty truly is and why this is where He chose to lead Jason’s path.

As I was able to jump in and serve as a mentor, it was clear that the transformational experience of spiritual growth is just as significant for the adult male mentor, as it potentially can be for the young, fatherless mentee.

Jason says it best when he states there are two groups at-risk–fatherless youth and the church. Fatherless youth are the obvious group, with a greater likelihood of getting into trouble with the law and never graduate from high school. The less obvious group is the church who is at-risk of living completely insignificant lives, overlooking the needs of youth growing up in our own backyard.

By the end of 2014, it was clearer than ever to Jason, the Aspire Board and I that it was time to take The Aspire Movement to the next level. This meant that more than just mentees in Fairfield (West Birmingham) and mentors from a few Birmingham churches would have the opportunity to serve in this incredible transformational cause that God created through Jason’s story.

It was time for us to work together to solidify The Aspire Movement by involving more churches, where mentors are ready to serve in the community, and it was time for us to offer this opportunity to more schools whose youth are in need of this ministry.

Here in 2015, that’s exactly what the Lord has done. Calling Jason from his previous role as Briarwood’s Urban Missions Pastor into his current role as full-time Executive Director of The Aspire Movement.

And for me, both as a mentor for Mekhi and a board member for the ministry, I am more motivated than ever to labor for Christ in any way I am called to, so that we can truly transform these two at-risk groups in His name.

Visit http://www.aspiremovement.org to learn how you can get involved as a mentor and/or donor to help address these two at-risk groups (our youth and the church) in His glorious name.

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Perpsective, Seven Takeaways

7 Ways Michael Jordan’s Story Can Help You Win

I sat down with my oldest daughter, Savanah, to use our Apple Final Cut Pro editing program, to cut up an awesome MJ Documentary from the ESPN Sportcentury series. The one minute video snippets below, work in conjunction with these seven takeaways, to tell the story of MJ’s journey from scoring leader to team leader and six-time champion.

The State Of MJ: Pre-NBA Champion

I’ve learned from several CEOs and Leaders, much smarter than me, that leadership is the process of doing just that; letting go!

So how did Michael Jordan transform from a guy who couldn’t win in the playoffs to the best NBA player of all-time, who’s teams won six NBA Titles? What did it take for him to go from MJ the league’s top scorer to MJ the NBA Champ and G.O.A.T.?

1. Mentorship – MJ needed somebody who knew better than he did, and wasn’t afraid to tell him! You need a leader to lead you to become a leader.

I have to give my own personal shout out on this one. For me, that guy is Forrest Walden, my business partner and CEO at Iron Tribe.

Forrest has taught me countless ways to let go and become more than just a producer for our business, but instead, how to focus on leading the people on my team to be the best producers they can be for our team. And we have honest conversations regularly, which is integral to getting the feedback I need to continue being a best President for our company that I can be, and for me to give him that same feedback to be the best CEO he can be.

2. Transparency – You must open yourself to direct conversations. For MJ to truly know where he fell short, Phil Jackson couldn’t hold back. And, as you can imagine, Phil had a lot on the line. MJ was the franchise player for the Chicago Bulls. If Phil couldn’t get along with him, the Bulls would most likely choose MJ over him.

But Phil knew that if he didn’t tell MJ where he fell short and why the Bulls were losing, MJ may have kept playing the same way and never won a title – could you imagine that!?! Instead, Phil helped him get his head around this new offense and gradually gain belief in its philosophy.

3. Unselfishness – You will have to think about your team before yourself. It was a process, but Phil got MJ to continuously do this more and more, to the point that when he finally was in a defining moment in the 1991 NBA Finals against legend Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers, MJ deferred to his team first and it resulted in the Bulls’ first NBA Title.

4. Trust: You Trust Them & They Trust You – You will learn to believe in your team. MJ trusted his teammates in specific moments that showed it was genuine, and this pulled everyone together in a way where they were operating as a true team that nobody else could stop.

Once they know you believe in them, your team will believe in you. MJ and the Bulls couldn’t get enough, and neither can any team that is clicking on all cylinders. This is a productive form of desire that will help you accomplish things that you could have never imagined without the people around you being there with you each step of the way.

5. Boldness – You cannot hold back on pushing your teammates in an honest and constructive manner, which challenges them to not only be the best they can be, but to deliver their production responsibility for the sake of the team. MJ is legendary on this topic, sometimes going as far as hitting teammates in the face, (which I don’t recommend).

6. Confidence – After they believe in you, your team will follow you anywhere! MJ’s team not only trusted that he would take them to victory, but they were confident enough to be ready to deliver in their specific role or function, when called upon to do so – just look at John Paxon’s big shots in the 1991 and 1993 championships. Could he have hit those without MJ becoming the leader he became? Would the Bulls even have been in that position without MJ’s leadership growth. I think not.

7. Dedication – Leaders like this, will do whatever it takes to keep getting better because they want more. The best leaders are the best versions of themselves every day. They are continuously better the day you see them, than they were the day before.

Jordan only became better with time, and ultimately MJ ended his career with a six NBA Titles in six tries. Kobe couldn’t do it. LeBron can’t do it (he’s already lost three NBA Finals), and I’m not sure anyone ever will repeat a feat of perfection like this again in all of sport.

Phil Jackson is quite the common denominator when it comes to leading teams. He went on to lead Kobe and the LA Lakers to five more NBA Titles, to add to his six titles as the head coach of Chicago and two titles as a player with the NY Knicks.

However, he couldn’t do it, and neither could MJ or Kobe, without the team. That’s where it starts and that’s where it ends. You can’t do big things without a great one.

And your team can’t be great, without you stepping up and being a great leader.

What are you waiting for?

—–Read Below For The Full Version Of This Blog Article—–

I recently attended a brand-wide conference for a business partner of mine, who happens to be the seasoned CEO of a large franchise chain, that has a 200+ unit footprint throughout the southeast United States.

As he got up in front of his franchise owners and operators, he began to talk about teamwork, and one his core analogies were the phases of Michael Jordan’s career. He did a good job relating MJ’s career phases to his franchisees, and I left intrigued to dig a little further on the topic.

Now if you know me just a little, you know I’m a huge sports fan and I pride myself on knowing every and any fact I can, regarding the history of each sport, who did what, what team won the championship each season, what player went to what school, records set, etc…

But most of my knowledge was acquired at a time where I didn’t understand what it took for these athletes and teams to actually accomplish what they did – I had limited perspective because I learned these facts as a teen with limited perspective on life, compared to the perspective I have now, as a husband, father, friend and president of a nationwide fitness franchise.

So, when I left the conference, I dove back in to Michael Jordan’s career, to explore and see what I could learn that I either had forgotten or might have never knew about in the first place.

If you like sports, you’re going to leave this article ready to run through a wall!

OK — so we all love Michael Jordan. And if you don’t think he’s the best ever, well; you’re just plain crazy. Sorry, but come on. Six NBA Finals. Six Titles. Six Finals MVPs. That is all that needs to be said.

Because of all of MJ’s championships, seldom do you hear talk of MJ’s first six seasons, each of which ended with a loss and a great deal of frustration.

Despite winning scoring titles early on, MJ couldn’t figure out how to garner the same success for his Chicago Bulls team, as he was experiencing for himself – for instance, he averaged an NBA-leading 37.1 points per game (ppg) in the 1986-87 season, but yet his team was swept 3-0 in the first round of the 1987 NBA Playoffs to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.

Keep in mind, since that 1986-87 season (almost 30 years ago), not one scoring champ has exceeded 37.1 ppg, with only two players getting within two points per game of this number; Kobe Bryant averaged 35.4 ppg to lead the NBA in scoring in the 2005-06 season and MJ averaged 35.0 ppg to lead the NBA in scoring in the 1987-88 season. Woah.

Basically, MJ was a great leader, as far as being the leading scorer. But that was about it.

As sensational as his individual talent was, MJ needed somebody to teach him how to engage his team to win games in a team sport that he happened to be approaching more as an individual.

This is something that anyone who has grown into any sort of leadership role, can relate to completely. Think about it. Most people are thrusted into a leadership role solely because they are great at doing something – they have talent. Not because they’ve displayed leadership capacity.

So naturally, the next move up in the organization chart, is for them to be a leader of a team, in a role where they are asked to influence other people to be the superstars that they had previously been in that same role. But it’s a totally different skill-set that they must learn to be as good of a leader as they were as a producer.

This same thing happens with business owners, who launch a business that requires them to play just about every role there is, from sales to marketing to product development to finance, and in between. These business owners successfully wear all these hats to prove the concept and grow their business. But then, the business owner who had the great idea and did everything to make it happen, now has to hire, develop and lead others to get their business to the next level.

MJ couldn’t play point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center and coach, all at once! He had to let go or else he’d never win.

I’ve had to go on a similar journey in my own career as an entrepreneur. I’ve struggled with finding the right people, trusting them, and ultimately; letting go so that they can fly as the superstars God’s intended them to be!

MJ’s story has seven core takeaways that I’ve had to learn in my own career as well.

I sat down with my oldest daughter, Savanah, to use our Apple Final Cut Pro editing program, to cut up an awesome MJ Documentary from the ESPN Sportcentury series. The one minute video snippets below, work in conjunction with these seven takeaways, to tell the story of MJ’s journey from scoring leader to team leader and six-time champion.

The State Of MJ: Pre-NBA Champion

I’ve learned from several CEOs and Leaders, much smarter than me, that leadership is the process of doing just that; letting go!

So how did MJ transform from a guy who couldn’t win in the playoffs to the best NBA player of all-time, who’s teams won six NBA Titles? What did it take for him to go from MJ the league’s top scorer to MJ the NBA Champ and G.O.A.T.?

1. Mentorship – MJ needed somebody who knew better than he did, and wasn’t afraid to tell him! You need a leader to lead you to become a leader.

I have to give my own personal shout out on this one. For me, that guy is Forrest Walden, my business partner and CEO at Iron Tribe.

Forrest has taught me countless ways to let go and become more than just a producer for our business, but instead, how to focus on leading the people on my team to be the best producers they can be for our team. And we have honest conversations regularly, which is integral to getting the feedback I need to continue being a best President for our company that I can be, and for me to give him that same feedback to be the best CEO he can be.

2. Transparency – You must open yourself to direct conversations. For MJ to truly know where he fell short, Phil Jackson couldn’t hold back. And, as you can imagine, Phil had a lot on the line. MJ was the franchise player for the Chicago Bulls. If Phil couldn’t get along with him, the Bulls would most likely choose MJ over him.

But Phil knew that if he didn’t tell MJ where he fell short and why the Bulls were losing, MJ may have kept playing the same way and never won a title – could you imagine that!?! Instead, Phil helped him get his head around this new offense and gradually gain belief in its philosophy.

3. Unselfishness – You will have to think about your team before yourself. It was a process, but Phil got MJ to continuously do this more and more, to the point that when he finally was in a defining moment in the 1991 NBA Finals against legend Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers, MJ deferred to his team first and it resulted in the Bulls’ first NBA Title.

4. Trust: You Trust Them & They Trust You – You will learn to believe in your team. MJ trusted his teammates in specific moments that showed it was genuine, and this pulled everyone together in a way where they were operating as a true team that nobody else could stop.

Once they know you believe in them, your team will believe in you. MJ and the Bulls couldn’t get enough, and neither can any team that is clicking on all cylinders. This is a productive form of desire that will help you accomplish things that you could have never imagined without the people around you being there with you each step of the way.

5. Boldness – You cannot hold back on pushing your teammates in an honest and constructive manner, which challenges them to not only be the best they can be, but to deliver their production responsibility for the sake of the team. MJ is legendary on this topic, sometimes going as far as hitting teammates in the face, (which I don’t recommend).

6. Confidence – After they believe in you, your team will follow you anywhere! MJ’s team not only trusted that he would take them to victory, but they were confident enough to be ready to deliver in their specific role or function, when called upon to do so – just look at John Paxon’s big shots in the 1991 and 1993 championships. Could he have hit those without MJ becoming the leader he became? Would the Bulls even have been in that position without MJ’s leadership growth. I think not.

7. Dedication – Leaders like this, will do whatever it takes to keep getting better because they want more. The best leaders are the best versions of themselves every day. They are continuously better the day you see them, than they were the day before.

Jordan only became better with time, and ultimately MJ ended his career with a six NBA Titles in six tries. Kobe couldn’t do it. LeBron can’t do it (he’s already lost three NBA Finals), and I’m not sure anyone ever will repeat a feat of perfection like this again in all of sport.

Phil Jackson is quite the common denominator when it comes to leading teams. He went on to lead Kobe and the LA Lakers to five more NBA Titles, to add to his six titles as the head coach of Chicago and two titles as a player with the NY Knicks.

However, he couldn’t do it, and neither could MJ or Kobe, without the team. That’s where it starts and that’s where it ends. You can’t do big things without a great one.

And your team can’t be great, without you stepping up and being a great leader.

What are you waiting for?

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Journal, Perpsective, The Gospel

Be Careful What You Ask For!

Monday, January 12, 2015

6:50am

I wrapped up my quiet time with a short, half page journal entry. I usually finish the entire page, but I was in a rush to get in my car and head to the office for our Monday Morning Meeting that I lead each week with our corporate team.

“What if my life was a continuous risk-taking plunge, that forced me to live a life dependent on God? How different would I live compared to how I live now?

That’s it! I am going to take one risk this year for the sake of The Gospel, that is dependent on Him with no guarantee he will deliver the result I’m hopeful for as I take this risk.

I often look at so many of the unfortunate situations in the lives around me, wondering ‘Why not me?’ People I know have died much too early from cancer and other, more abrupt causes… Yet, I am still here?

For what? Why? How can I leverage whatever time I have left to make the most of it for those that I am able to touch?

This unknown time that I have remaining on this earth, must be my bankroll for this risk I am going to take for Him, without knowing how He might return my investment.”

7:15am

I began my daily 20 minute drive into Birmingham, to our Iron Tribe HQ near Southside’s Pepper Place. As I drove in, I continued a tradition I began a couple months ago, listening to Kevin Elko’s Monday Morning Cup of Inspiration.

Kevin has helped countless college and professional sports brands, from their coaches to their athletes, focus on keeping their ‘eye on the prize’ with his motivational sports psych expertise. He’s worked with ‘Bama Football, The Yankees, The Steelers, The U (Miami) Football and so many other groups of coaches and athletes.

He also was the keynote speaker at our recent TribeCon14 annual franchise conference event that we hosted here at The Westin Birmingham for our Iron Tribe franchise partners, and he pushed us all quite directly to ‘stop wishing to receive the blessing and instead, go out and BE THE BLESSING.’

His Monday Morning Cup on January 12th left me with two takeaways. First, ‘be comfortable being uncomfortable.’ Second and more importantly, ‘stop wishing life was easier; just GET TOUGHER.”

[Click on either of the two Monday Morning Cup links above to listen to this one – it’s worth it]

8:25am

A few us meet each week to discuss a book we’re reading (What’s Best Next? by Matt Perman) and before we began our Monday Morning Meeting with our entire team, I played them Kevin Elko’s Monday Morning Cup and then we prayed for God to help us focus on being desperate for Him and inviting Him to make things tougher, so we will only rely on Him more to be able to GET TOUGHER.

9:02am

Because we introduced a new format for our Monday Morning Meeting, it ended in 32 minutes, instead of lasting for its usual 60 minutes.

The team walked out of the conference room on the 3rd Avenue/27th Street South corner of our building, and I walked into Forrest’s office to put a game plan together for an important project we would be working on side-by-side all week.

9:07am

An extremely loud, thunderous sound occurs, which is not unusual because accidents happen weekly on the 3rd Avenue/27th Street corner of our building.

Then the thunderous sound (with slight millisecond moments in between it as you heard it) became louder and louder, with Kelli (who works at the front desk which has all windows facing the 3rd Avenue/27th Street South corner) screaming “Oh my God… Oh No!” louder and louder intermittently.

Then… IMPACT into our building… Power goes out… Lights off… Vibration felt… Forrest and I rush out of his office to see a truck stuck inside of our building.

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Before I keep going, let’s list off the realities of physics here;

  1. The gym side of our building had no classes going on, so the only people in that side of the building were in their offices (our manager, Josh Taylor, and coaches Mike Collins and Alex Brigham).
  2. The gym side of our building is a low-bearing, concrete wall, that directly supports the roof of our building.
  3. The corporate office side of our building is nothing but glass and sheet rock.
  4. There were ten of us in offices on this corporate office side of the building.
  5. Our TribeMobile Tahoe truck that Tra Griffin (VP of Birmingham Gym Operations) drive, was parked in a spot that was directly in line with the corporate office side of the building, which caused the truck to veer toward the gym side.
  6. The semi-truck did not have a load. An empty load would have been 5-10 more tons of weight behind the truck, while a full load would have been twice as many tons of weight behind the truck.
  7. The semi-truck hit the power line directly and missed the gas line by mere inches.

Thus, the potential results;

  1. The truck goes deeper into the building because it is carrying at least an empty load or at most a full load, and the ceiling collapses on everyone in the building, because the low-bearing support wall is totally destroyed by the increased impact.
  2. Tra doesn’t park his TribeMobile Tahoe in that spot and the truck goes into the corporate office, destroying the mere glass and sheet rock that primarily make up this side of the building, running us all over.
  3. The truck hits the gas line and an explosion occurs.
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Here is a diagram of the turn that the truck driver tried to make, and why the accident happened.

I’m not going to go one step further and talk about what the news stories could have been, which you could have read last week versus this personal blog article of mine.

But I can tell you this, they would have been life altering for a lot of different groups of people.

10:43pm

I finished that page in my journal. It’ll be a page of two different, but united tales, that I will hopefully re-read for how many years I am left on this earth. It’s context. It’s perspective.

“Why does God give us challenges? Why is life so hard? How can we believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God, as our Creator and Eternal Lord, when things like this don’t always have this blessed ending? With the horrors of man that are continuously prevalent in this world?

Well, all that God has created is good. Through our sin, we each continuously take great creations from Him and disfigure it in ways that mutate these things He has blessed us with. Look no further than ways we have abused sex, alcohol, or even the environment, etc.. We think we know what to do with those creations, to the point that we abuse them in ways where they have power over us.

Life is supposed to be hard! Challenges are supposed to come our way! If you think it’s easy, it’s probably because you aren’t trying hard enough!

We ARE NOT called to face every challenge on our own. We ARE called to “Get Tougher”, not merely by OUR own strength, but the strength that comes from our relationship in HIM.

And when a situation like this Monday morning happens, you take the extension on life that you’ve been blessed with, and you use it to invest into the opportunities around you.

Jim! Wake up! What are you going to do with this extra time? You can’t complain! You can’t grumble! Be thankful your heart is beating and beg God for strength to stop wishing things were easier, but GET TOUGHER.”

 

 

 

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Journal, Perpsective, Seven Takeaways

Failing To Succeed

In my Goal Setting Workshop that I hosted for 60 Iron Tribe athletes from our five local Birmingham gyms, I taught a formula to review the previous year to help set a plan for the best year ahead that you can envision.

Reviewing the previous year is where you have to begin, though. List at least five or more Accomplishments from the previous year and then list five or more Lessons Learned from the previous year.

The key is to ALWAYS start with Accomplishments and really take the time to name at least five – you’ll be amazed at what you’ve forgot you’ve done. From there, you’ve surely learned things in the previous year, that will only make you wiser for the year ahead.

So what are YOUR Accomplishments and Lessons Learned from 2014?

OK. I’ll start… Here are 7 of my Accomplishments and 7 of my Lessons Learned;

Accomplishments
  1. Completed 100 Day Strength Program
  2. Joined Aspire Movement Board / Began Mentoring Sixth Grade Boy
  3. 30+ Date Nights w. my wife Yazmin / 3 Concert Trips w. Yazmin (ALONE 🙂 )
  4. My 12 year old, Savanah, averaged 4 A’s & 1 B+ in fifth grade and continues this in sixth grade.
  5. Iron Tribe was Inc. 5000 #602
  6. Three Family Vacations (NY/Adirondacks + Charleston/Beach)
  7. Published my first book (No B.S. Brand Building) with Entrepreneur Press

*Reached 11 goals from 2014 (out of 31 = 35%)

Lessons Learned
  1. Being the leader (husband/father) of a wife with three kids is very hard – I am not above this.
  2. My time with my Iron Tribe brand, is most valuable if I lead then do, NOT do first.
  3. If I am poor steward of my gifts and/or money, I can undermine any of my successes.
  4. You cannot plan everything, nor can you equate all success on planned items – sometimes you have to let go.
  5. My faith is my only hope – when left alone and not pursuing Him daily, I am hopeless.
  6. Even when I think I am being a good leader of my house, I might not be doing so in the eyes of my wife and kids.
  7. I cannot afford to put myself in tempting environments where I am simply relying on my own self-control.

In this Goal Setting Workshop video, I share my entire Goal Setting Formula and The Fuel source for which you can stick with it.

This is the Goal Setting Exercise that goes along with the video, should you want to completely review 2014 and set your 2015 Annual Plan per the formula I taught – Click Here to Download – It contains a special bonus piece on The Fuel behind your Formula, which will help you stick with your plan for 2015!

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