THANKS & GIVING: PART 3

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Today, we are in the final week of our mini-series on THANKS & GIVING. We have been discussing the cycle of blessing that is comes into our lives when we practice thankfulness. If you missed the earlier weeks on the Law of Recognition and the Attitude of Gratitude, I encourage you to go back and catch up.

There is more to the cycle of blessing than just being grateful. It is generated by both THANKS AND GIVING. Because, you see, when you recognize your blessings, you are thankful for them. And your thankfulness causes you to give. It is the natural outpouring of appreciation.

What do you do when you want to express gratitude?

  • Sometimes you send flowers

  • Sometimes you write a letter or a special note

  • Sometimes you take a family to dinner

  • Sometimes you give a gift

  • Sometimes you sponsor an experience – like to take people to a ballgame. Recently, a friend of ours took us to a Bulls game just to say ‘thank you’ for being a part of their lives.

See, true gratitude always brings action. You don’t just sit quietly, you do something. Gratitude equals Action, and the gratitude ‘action’ is GIVING. Thanks and Giving. It’s what creates this cycle of blessing. And remember, what goes around, comes around.

Are you seeing this blessing cycle? It starts with God’s goodness and his blessing on our lives. Then we RECOGNIZE the blessing, and we have a heart of THANKS. And GIVING is the natural outcome of a grateful heart. Then, when we GIVE, God pours out even more goodness and blessing in our lives. Recognition, thankfulness, giving, blessings…and it continues over and over.

I can tell you from experience, the very best life is being in this sequence. But let me also caution you—we can take ourselves out of this cycle. We can stop being thankful. We can stop giving. And pretty soon, we start to wonder why our lives are unhappy and unfulfilled. It’s because we have moved away from the flow of blessings.

I am very committed and invested in the gratitude action of GIVING. I believe it is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling activities you can do. I recently heard someone I respect talking about the need to help others. He was passionate about our responsibility, and shared this perspective:

So often people buy into the belief that ‘anyone can do anything.’ For those of us born in America, it is the American Dream – you have the opportunity to be anything you want to be. You can do anything you want to do. If we subscribe to this thinking on a very basic level, it naturally leads us to become less understanding of the needy. If you can do anything, then the fact that you are poor or in need, is because you have not chosen to do more with your life. You could be better. You could be making a great living. You could be successful.

This line of thinking assumes that everyone is born with the same opportunities and the same advantages, and that everyone is placed in a position to thrive—the only difference is choice. But this is simply not true.

Everyone is not born into the same family mindset. Everyone is not provided the same education. Everyone is not given the same opportunities. Many people the world over need a helping hand. Many people’s lives can be changed by the generosity of someone who is in a better position and who has the heart of generosity.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I wholeheartedly believe that you have the opportunity to change your situation. I believe that you can become successful. But I also believe there are paths that must be traveled to reach that goal. If you listen to me regularly, you know that I believe exposure is the way to expand your mind. Once you are exposed to an idea, you can’t go back. You now know new possibilities.

So I often think of my giving in terms of these paths. If I can give someone the opportunity to expose their mind to a new idea, I have given them the key to change their circumstances. If I can give someone the ability to establish a new thought process, I have given them a lot more than a few dollars. But these opportunities take resources, and that’s where I believe giving can be tremendously multiplied.

I want to help you develop a mindset of exponential generosity. I want you to see that the difference you make with your giving has the potential to truly change the course of someone’s life.

It’s a lot more than checking a box to ‘give back’.

It’s a lot more than thinking of giving as a duty of the affluent.

Giving is an OPPORTUNITY. It is a PRIVILEGE to be able to alter the future.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking that giving is a small thing. It is a tremendously large thing. It is mind-altering and life-adjusting.

I recently read a story about a little girl in a Russian orphanage who had never in her life received a present. She had been told that no one loved her and no one ever would. When she was ten years old, Operation Christmas Child gave her one of their shoebox gifts, and she said that small act of giving showed her hope. Today, she is a 19-year-old intern with Operation Christmas Child, and she wants her life work to be showing that same hope to children who have no hope. This is done through the action of giving.

Generosity has no boundaries. It is ageless, genderless, and is open to everyone, no matter their income level. I encourage you to think deeper about giving. Realize that it is a privilege that you are in a position to be generous, and let your own gratitude and thankfulness for the blessings in your life cause you to practice extravagant generosity.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you will spend a few moments between the delicious food and the ballgames to remind yourself of the blessings in your life. And I trust that when you know how blessed you are, your action will be to give. THANKS & GIVING. It is the cycle of a blessed life.

I hope you enjoyed this episode! Please share it with friends and colleagues, or on social media. 

If you liked what you heard, I’d love it if you would leave a five-star review on iTunes here. 

THANKS & GIVING: PART 2

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Today, we are continuing to look at the cycle of blessing that comes into our lives when we practice thankfulness. Last week we started this by discussion the Law of Recognition. If you missed last week, go back and read that blog or listen to the podcast, Success Made Simple.

Continuing with the theme of THANKS & GIVING, I want to give you a few thoughts about gratitude that I believe will benefit you.

First, your attitude will determine your altitude.

I personally speak several languages…American, English, Canadian, Australian, a bit of Ebonics…but whenever I am visiting a non-English speaking country, there is one word that I always learn…THANKS! Merci, Gracias, Arigato, Danke, Tiramisu!

I have discovered that this one word alone will work wonders. It will open doors. It will establish relationships. It will make people realize you recognize their effort, and it will make you memorable. Learn the power of the word THANKS.

Rudyard Kipling was one of those authors who was very successful in his own lifetime. A British newspaper criticized him, ridiculed him and called him a mercenary. They said, “He is now writing just for the money. One word of Kipling today is worth a hundred dollars.”

Shortly after the release of the unkind article, a reporter approached Kipling at a gathering and said, “So you’re worth a hundred dollars a word? Here’s a hundred…give me a word.” Then he handed him a paper and pencil.

Kipling took the hundred, put it in his pocket and he wrote one word on the paper…THANKS.

The Attitude of Gratitude has two perspectives – Outward Expression and Inward Thanksgiving.

In other words –
What everyone sees - showing appreciation to others
What we know within ourselves - that we are blessed.

Gratitude means the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. Demonstrating sincere gratitude takes energy and thought, and having an attitude of gratitude requires the conscious effort of being thankful.

Why show gratitude? Is it just the right thing to do, or does it have some other value? By maintaining an attitude of gratitude with each new day, you develop lifetime habits:

1. You start appreciating what you have instead of dwelling on what you don’t have. This means that you stop comparing yourself to others – what they have (or what you think they have), what they do, and what is done for them. To compare is to kill your joy. Stop doing that, and be thankful for what you have.

2. You’ll have more peace and joy because your point of view begins on a positive note. Your outlook makes all the difference. People who are thankful and content are a joy to be around. On the other hand…people who are crabby, critical and constantly complain…. are not truly grateful people.

3. You’ll also handle challenges differently if you begin with an appreciative mindset. Once you begin to live in gratitude, your difficulties are seen in a different light.

  • Thank you God that they’ve discovered it early.

  • Thank you that we’re living in a time where there are all kinds of potential treatments.

  • Thank you that my friend has the faith to carry him through.

  • Thank you God for hearing and answering our prayers. Etc…

Saying “thank you” isn’t tough for most people. Modeling a spirit of gratitude takes much more effort, and a shift in thinking is the first step.

People who model gratitude don’t take others for granted. They don’t make assumptions about how other people should treat them or what others should do for them. They don’t walk around with a sense of entitlement, feeling they are owed more from the world.Sometimes we get so focused on our “rights” that we forget to be gracious and appreciative of what we really do have. When modeling gratitude, we develop an awareness by appreciating small everyday experiences. For example, you might be quick to complain when traffic stalls, making it hard to get to work on time. However, do you appreciate days when all the lights seem to work in your favor?

Frustration comes from unmet expectations, but gratitude results in not having expectations and truly finding the joy in whatever comes your way. This is not a typical thought process for many of us; however, modeling gratitude will attract others to you and improve your overall attitude. Children who observe grateful parents learn to be thankful. Bosses who demonstrate a spirit of gratitude will find that their employees are more grateful.

John F. Kennedy said it eloquently, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

At times it is obvious that gratitude should be expressed, such as when someone does you a Favor or gives you a gift. But there are many other times to be grateful; times we normally take for granted. Here are a few examples:

* When children behave.

You might be thinking, “children should behave,” and that’s true. But demonstrating gratitude for their good behavior will only promote more of the same.

* When someone does a job well.

I have tracked down managers to let them know when a store clerk treats me kindly or just has a great attitude. I try to express my gratitude in front of the employee with the manager to ensure the employee hears it. If you have a housekeeper or lawn service, add extra payment or treat them to home-baked cookies occasionally to express your appreciation for their continued good work. I have a friend who leaves soda and snacks on top of her trashcan for the garbage collectors each week. Who thinks to thank the garbage collector?

* When your spouse goes to work every day.

It’s so easy to accept the benefits of your spouse’s income without ever really saying, “I really appreciate how hard you work for our family.” Even if your spouse doesn’t thank you for doing the same, be the bigger person. You might see a change of attitude.

* When friends or family members help you out.

It’s especially easy to overlook close friends and family when it comes to being gracious. We get so used to some people being there for us that we can’t imagine them not doing so. Maybe a friend picks up your daughter from dance, or your sister babysits your children. Think about those people in your life who are there in a pinch or regularly make your life a little easier.

When we start looking for reasons to be grateful, our outlook will begin to change. The genuine gratitude we express outwardly will always be the result of our INWARD THANKSGIVING. We must know that we are truly blessed.

So learn the essential trait of thankfulness, then live it. You will be living a life of more – more happiness, more contentment, more blessings. Because thankfulness is the link between recognition and increase.

This brings us to our other anchor point of GIVING. Next week, is our final week in this mini- series of THANKS & GIVING. Join me back here next week as we discover how GIVING brings meaning and fulfillment to life.

I hope you enjoyed this episode! Please share it with friends and colleagues, or on social media. 

If you liked what you heard, I’d love it if you would leave a five-star review on iTunes here. 

FIVE WAYS TO HAVE A GREAT DAY

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How many times have you had someone ask, “How was your day?”? Does this happen to you almost every day? For some of us, we are asked multiple times, and we start to give pat answers. “It was fine.” “It was good.” “It was OK.” And sometimes, that’s all we say out loud. But what do you say to yourself? Remember, your words to yourself are important.

When you look back over the day, how do you rate it? Was it a rough day? Did something happen to derail you? Was it really a great day? I want to give you five things that you can do every day that will make it a great day. If you do these five things consistently, every day, they will start to become a habit, and pretty soon you’ll look back over your weeks and months and realize that you have changed.

So here we go:

How to make it a great day - #1
Wake up with gratitude.

When you wake up in the morning, I encourage you to develop the habit of being grateful. I call this the attitude of gratitude, and the way it works for me is to use the two by four method. I divide my life into two categories – people and things – and I name four people who I appreciate and I name four things that make me grateful. I try to do this before I even get out of bed. If you forget, then post a note on your bathroom mirror that just says ‘2 x 4’ You’ll know what it means – two categories, then four names and four things.

Most days, I try to be creative and come up with different people, because I have hundreds of people who have impacted my life for years. There’s my fifth grade teacher who made me learn all the states and their capitals – and how to spell them! It wasn’t fun then, but I have used that knowledge for the last three decades. Who knew that I would be traveling to all those states? There’s the guy at the bank who set up an account for me and has even stayed late for me when I was coming in from the airport on a quick overnight. There’s the person I call when I need a phone number, and the one I call when I need wise counsel. There’s the person who always is happy to see me, the one who supports me, and the one who helped me start a business when I was twenty-four. There are so many people I appreciate and naming four each day makes me see that my life is much more rich with friends than I realized.

Then I name four things – four blessings in my life. And the list is endless. I am blessed to be able to walk, to have a voice, and to have an audience. I am blessed to have transportation. I am blessed to know how to read. I am blessed to be able to smell bacon cooking! I am blessed to be able to travel the world, and I am blessed to have running water.

What happens every day, is that I start thinking of people that I appreciate and the many ways I am blessed, and then it’s very easy to begin my day looking up. When you start with gratitude, you are focused for a great day.

How to make it a great day - #2
Do something good for your body.

Every day, do something that will promote health in your body. It’s the only body you have, and you should take care of it. Here are a few ideas. Take a walk, eat a healthy meal, spend a few minutes quietly relaxing. If you are not accustomed to doing something to take care of yourself, then start now. Take vitamins, stretch, get moving, drink half your body weight in ounces of water, and get a good night’s sleep!

I’m very serious about this. You want your body to last for many more years. If you wanted a car to last for even 20 years, you would take great care of it. You would have the oil changed, keep it clean, give it regular check-ups, and treat it well. Don’t do any less for your body! Do something good for your health every day.

How to make it a great day - #3
Give something away

Yes, that’s right. Give something away. Stretch your generosity muscle. Perhaps you could buy a cup of coffee for someone. Maybe you could give a sincere compliment. Maybe you could send a thank you note – that is huge. I recently received a handwritten note from the VP of a company where I had spoken. He did not have to do that, in fact, they paid me to come, but he went above and wrote a personal note of appreciation. Maybe it stood out because it is rare to get real thank you notes. But they are a meaningful gift.

Maybe you could give someone your time – a phone call or a visit. Time is your most valuable commodity, and to give someone the gift of your time shows great love and appreciation.

Whatever you decide to do each day, and whatever you give away, do it quietly, and let it keep you mindful of generosity. I believe you will find generosity addictive, and giving away something every day will develop a habit that will become a trademark of your life. Try it!

How to make it a great day - #4
Encourage someone and talk to someone who encourages you

We live in community, and building each other up is one of the best ways we can make our world stronger. Seek out that person who always has a smile and a good word for you. Look for the one who make your day brighter just by saying hello. You need those people in your life. You need to hear that you are appreciated and that your contribution is valued. You need to know that what you are doing is making a difference, so go find those people who affirm you and who make you happy. Talk to them, or communicate with them and let those minutes re-align you if your day has gotten off track, or let it expand you, as you are moving forward.

Then reciprocate. Yes, give that encouragement back. Don’t be the one who always takes the encouragement and the appreciation without returning it. You need to give just as you need to receive. And the other person needs to hear from you as well. Hearing and speaking encouragement will bring sunshine into your day.

How to make it a great day - #5
Do something that moves you toward your goals

To thrive, you must be growing. And growing requires consistent action and dedication. Your day would not be complete without doing something that brings you closer to your goals. It may be a project, a phone call, research, a conference, or anything that propels you forward toward the life goal that you have in front of you. We were not created just to live for a few decades then pass on. We were created for a purpose, and your purpose will push you into action. To make your day a great one, and one that is productive and pleasing, doing something every day that moves you toward your goals.

These five actions are designed to make you better from the inside out. Gratitude, health, generosity, encouragement, and goal oriented action will make it a great day. And once you have the formula for a great day, you can make great weeks, great months, great years, and you can make the rest of your life the best of your life.

I hope you enjoyed this episode! Please share it with friends and colleagues, or on social media. 

If you liked what you heard, I’d love it if you would leave a five-star review on iTunes here. 

A GAME PLAN FOR LIFE: PART 1

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Today I want to talk to you about something I believe we all need, and that is a life plan. Nothing in life that is done well is accomplished without planning.

As I travel around the world, I’m seeing a trend that I think is very interesting. I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of people, and I am always interested in people’s outlook on life. What I have observed are some common thought patterns. This does not describe everyone, but it is the tendency of a lot of people….

We plan our food, but we don’t plan our finances.
We plan our weekends, but we don’t plan our will.
We plan our kid’s college, but not their character.
We make time for games, but not for goals.
We take luxury vacations, but we don’t have a life vision.

As I think about this, I truly believe it comes back to planning. Planning is critical to a fulfilled life. If you want to be able to one day look back over your life and know you have accomplished what you were put on earth to do, then you must have a plan.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.”

Planning is the way to help control your future. Do you plan to live beyond this year? Beyond when your kids leave for college? Beyond when you retire? What are you going to do? How will you manage? When you look back over your life, what will you have done that is of significance? You desperately need a life plan.

Some of you have thought about these milestones and maybe you are worried, or at least a little concerned. One of my favorites, Winston Churchill says this: “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” I believe he knew what he was talking about! He was a master planner and history honors him for that. We, too, need to be master planners of our own lives. Otherwise, life happens TO us, and it happens AROUND us.

I recently read an article in Forbes magazine about why people feel lost in their lives. Look at the first reason this article listed:

Drift Syndrome.

When we can’t figure out why we’re doing what we’re doing, or how we ended up working the job we’re working, a sense of “drift”; settles in.  It seems that instead of planning out our career, we just drifted along the tides and eventually found ourselves here. Or perhaps we had a plan, but lack of follow-through and/or a few of life’s hard knocks changed it, and we just drifted along. The truth is, most of us drifted to some extent into whatever it is we're doing. Feeling The “drift” is an emotional trigger for feeling lost.

I want to briefly share 5 REASONS YOU NEED A GAME PLAN FOR LIFE. I believe it is critical that we understand the importance of a plan and that we make planning a part of our thinking. (This week we will look at the first two, and next week will cover the remaining three.)

#1. Planning is motivational.

This is the beginning. Whether we are talking about a team, a company, a work group, a family, or yourself, if there is no motivation, there is no success.

Having a plan in place can be extremely motivating. Consider waking up every morning, not knowing what you were doing, where you were going, who you were meeting, or even why? That sounds quite de-motivating!

As the great philosopher Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

That’s where a life plan comes in. If you know your destination and have mapped out how you are getting there, each day becomes challenging and is one to be anticipated as your work toward your goals. You need that plan!

Plans motivate us to stay on course. Has anyone ever been on a diet? Did you have a plan that included a ‘free day’ or as some people call it a ‘cheat day’?

If you have every dieted, you know that having a plan is what makes it work. The plan provides the momentum and knowing the plan works provides the motivation. Some people use the Keto plan (they eat a lot of bacon and cheese!). I saw a sign that said, ‘If KETO stands for Keep Eating Take Out, then I’m doing it right.’ Some people use the calorie counting plan (they use their calculators a lot and get mad!)

You all know someone who has lost a significant amount of weight, and what is the very first question they are asked? “How did you do it?” We all want to know their plan. And I guarantee you, they had one. I talked with someone just last week who lost 40 lbs, just by cutting everything in half and eating half now and the other half for the next meal. She had a plan.

There is always a plan, and knowing the plan and seeing the results will keep you motivated and give you momentum to achieve your goals.

#2. Planning will put you in a better position.

Whenever you plan, you plan to succeed. Thus, it is not a surprise that planning will eventually lead you to have better success and achieve a better position in the market, be it brand or a product. Any of your goals can have more chances of success with proper planning.

CEO’s of thriving companies know this. I read where the CEO of a major corporation invested the first hour of each day in meticulous planning of that 24 hour day. He wrote out his plans in detail on paper.

Lee Iacocca, the legendary former head of Chrysler, said that one of his greatest mentors insisted that any ideas he had be written out in detail on paper before he would consider them. You see, anyone can get carried away in the climate of conversation. But when you are required to write out a detailed plan on paper, facts arise that were previously hidden. Truths are much easier to see. Problem areas emerge. Weaknesses become obvious. Anything cloudy becomes clear. Questions are answered. And then, with your clarified plan, you are positioned to succeed. Planning puts you in a better position.

Planning is the difference maker in your success and in your life.

Look for Part 2 of A GAME PLAN FOR LIFE next week.

I hope you enjoyed this episode! Please share it with friends and colleagues, or on social media. 

If you liked what you heard, I’d love it if you would leave a five-star review on iTunes here. 

THE HEART OF A LEADER

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Many people are involved in leadership, whether it is in a corporation, a team, or a family, and great leaders are always learning and seeking wisdom. This week, I had the privilege of talking with Charlton Scullard about leadership. Charlton has spent many years in leadership, and has achieved notable success with multiple organizations. In our dialogue, we discussed leadership in today’s culture. For the entire conversation with Charlton, listen to DAVE MARTIN’S PODCAST: SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE.

Dr. Dave: Leadership is used a lot in conversation. It is praised; it is blamed; it is cited as the reason for both success and failure. Do you think leadership is all that?

Charlton: Yes, everything rises and falls on leadership. The reality is that you have good, strong leaders and sometimes you have selfish, weak leaders that love to blame others and say it’s someone else’s fault. I believe strong leaders take responsibility and they are accountable. Strong leaders are always up front.

I believe the best leaders are the servant leaders. They have the heart to serve the team. It’s always about the team, and not about them. As the team rises, they rise.

Dr. Dave: Can an organization be restricted by its leadership?

Charlton: Oh yes, there are so many different ways. Insecure leadership is one that immediately comes to mind. A leader that is threatened by the people that are excelling under them is intimidated by those people. Secure leaders have a heart to say, “I want the team to be better than me. I want people underneath me to excel and to soar.” In the end, that brings joy, and helping people become better is success.

Dr. Dave: So an organization can be restricted by bad leadership. On the other hand, how far can an outstanding leader take a group of apathetic and indifferent people?

Charlton: There is the reality of evaluating your team and of seeing who is on your team. Every leader has to ask that question, but I believe good leaders have the ability to see the potential in people. If they can have the mentality of wanting to discover the possibilities in their team, of setting them up to win, of growing and developing them, and of discovering what is needed to bring them to the forefront, then the best will rise to the top.

If there is someone on your team that cannot run with you, there comes a time when you have to be honest with that person. Good leaders are not afraid to have tough conversations, and they are not afraid of conflict. Sometimes you have to transition a person out, but when a good leader has the attitude in their heart that they want to see the potential in a person and they want to invest in them and develop them, the whole team is lifted.

Dr. Dave: Over the last few weeks we have discussed pruning, and sometimes I think we hold on to people too long. I always tell people to ask yourself, “If you knew then what you know now about this person, would you hire them again?”

Charlton: I think the word is ‘conflict’. Good leaders know how to address conflict. Conflict is not a bad word; rather it’s a powerful word. When a team can see that you as a leader are not afraid to engage someone on the team that you have to prune or let go, they respect you more. They all know who is the weakest link. They are waiting for you as the leader to make that tough decision.

Dr. Dave: I think a lot of times we get emotionally attached to people. If you would not hire them again, then you need to let them go immediately. If you are not sure, then give it 90 days. If, at the end of 90 days, you are still not sure, it is probably an emotional attachment, and you need to let them go.

Charlton: John Maxwell says there is 20% that you bring to an organization that only you can do. There is 80% that others can do. The problem occurs when you do not have the right people and you are unwilling to let them go, you start doing the 80% that they should be doing. It will take you away from your value, your true 20% that only you can bring. If you are starting to carry people that you should not carry, it will keep you as a leader from being effective and productive. It will limit your vision. Although you may feel compassion and sorrow, it is affecting your leadership.

Dr. Dave: As a leader, you often hire, promote, and decide which of your team members to place in positions of authority. What does a valuable team member look like, and what do you look for – or avoid – when you are selecting people?

Charlton: The first word that jumps out to me immediately is ‘flexibility’. As organizations are stretched and grow and go through transition, things can get messy, but flexible people know how to keep going. In times of turmoil, they keep moving forward. Sometimes we look for people who are very skilled in certain areas, but I think we need to look for people who are skilled over all, so they can adjust and can pick up and jump in when needed. I always say to choose heart over talent. You can learn talent, but heart is hard to learn. I always look for people who have the right heart, who are teachable, flexible, who are willing to jump in, willing to grow, and willing to learn. When you have a person of that mentality, you will have a great team player.

Dr. Dave: Sometimes you will have to change positions or sometimes you need to move to a different place to stay on the team. And anyone who says, ‘That’s not my job description,’ doesn’t have a place on the team.

Charlton: Being a part of the team is an honor, and being willing to play where you are needed is invaluable. That attitude will keep you on the team. Flexibility is key.

Dr. Dave: If you want to get a raise on your job, tell your boss that you want to be the number one problem solver. Money is not a mystery; money is a reward for solving problems. Solving problems and being flexible will cause you to rise.

Charlton: You also want people who see what they are doing as more than just a job. It affects your attitude and passion. When people know their work is more than just a job, they see the value in what they bring, they recognize their purpose, they have excitement, and they have a heart of excellence.

I hope you enjoyed this episode! Please share it with friends and colleagues, or on social media. 

If you liked what you heard, I’d love it if you would leave a five-star review on iTunes here.