Pruning is the selective removal of certain parts of a plant. Reasons to prune can be for deadwood removal, for shaping, or for increasing the yield and quality of fruits or flowers. Pruning is a necessary part of gardening, and I believe that often it is also a necessary action in life. Today I want to look at the benefits of pruning in our lives. Pruning, or cutting away, some areas can be life-changing.

There are three reasons for pruning. Pruning is done for heath, for shape, and for focused productivity.

1. When you prune for health, you clear away the unnecessary and the detrimental so that what remains can flourish. You remove the activities and the people who are keeping you from growing.

Sometimes we get caught up in other people’s plans. When that happens, we find ourselves spending more time and resources on other people’s goals and dreams than we do our own. That’s when it becomes necessary to prune. Ask yourself, “Is this activity producing anything positive in my life? Is it moving me toward my own goals?”

Start today by making a list of all your activities. Make two columns. Title the first column, MY GOALS &RESPONSIBILITIES and the second column EVERYTHING ELSE. Now list your activities. If you really want to see a clear picture, write down how much time each week you spend doing each activity. Now, look over your list. Did you find that you are spending a lot of your time working on other people’s dreams or are you spending time in areas that don’t matter at all? Are these areas you can prune?

What about the people in your life? Ask yourself this question, “Does this person encourage and promote me? Does he add to my life? Does she make me better?”

Your relationships will make or break you. I know that right now some of you are thinking of family members you would like to prune! Before you are too hasty, make sure that your pruning plans line up with your core values and make sure that YOU are positioned correctly. Do you add to their lives? Do you make them better? It’s never a one-way street. Don’t get caught up in the self-centered vortex—it’s not all about you. But it is vitally important that you do have people standing beside you who are FOR you. If you are spending a lot of your time with people who bring you down, who create problems, and who are not encouraging you and promoting you, think about pruning. Cut back on the time you give to people who drain you.

Aside from personal relationships, what about the people in your organization or business? Are they producing? Are they beneficial? Or have they become deadwood that is taking up resources that would be better spent elsewhere?

2. When you prune for shape, you take away the areas that do not fit the picture of your vision for your life. You may be spending a lot of time on social media or playing video games. Perhaps you prefer talking on the phone or watching TV. These are not wrong, but some of this time may need to be pruned to create a life shape that matches your vision.

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you won’t reach your goals by gaming all night. If your vision is for a great relationship, you will need to let go of some TV time and spend that time in conversation and working together toward something you both want. You must prune and cut away the areas of your life that do not fit your picture, so you can create the life of your dreams.

3. When you prune for focused productivity, you are cutting away good things so that your resources can be spent on the best things. Good is the enemy of great. Decide what is great in your life, then prune your other activities and people, even though they may be good, so that your focus, your time, your money, and your energy is spent on the great. This is the key to a successful life.

Pruning is not easy, but it is necessary. Pruning lightens your load. It directs you. It makes you more focused, and it makes you much more effective, profitable, and valuable.

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Do you have a green thumb? Are you able to grow lovely flowers, or do you have a garden where you plant your own fruits and vegetables? If you do, my hat is off to you! You have a special talent, and I know it takes a lot of work! I must confess, growing any kind of plant has never been one of my strengths, but I am interested in how it is done. Some people are able to grow incredible flowers and plants. Have you ever wondered how they get those large, award-winning vegetables and the grand, beautiful blooms? Why are some so fruits so much bigger than other ones of the same variety? I understand that the secret to getting outstanding results is pruning the vines and the trees.

Pruning is the selective removal of certain parts of a plant. Reasons to prune can be for deadwood removal, for shaping, or for increasing the yield and quality of fruits or flowers. Pruning is a necessary part of gardening, and I believe that often it is also a necessary action in life. Today I want to look at the benefits of pruning in our lives. Pruning, or cutting away, some areas can be life-changing.

There are three reasons for pruning. Pruning is done for heath, for shape, and for focused productivity.

1. Pruning for health is cutting away the dead or diseased branches. It is clearing away the unnecessary and the detrimental so that what remains can flourish.

2. Pruning for shape is removing everything that does not fit into the picture of what that tree or shrub should be. I saw a shrubbery at Disney that was shaped like Mickey Mouse. It was a incredible display of how a bush can be pruned to a specific form, and it was done by cutting away all the branches and twigs that didn’t look like Mickey. This is exactly what Michelangelo meant when he said, ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’

3. Pruning for focused productivity is cutting back branches, even though they are healthy, so all the resources of the tree to be concentrated toward what remains. Pruning a fruit tree is a great example of this. Let’s look at a peach tree. There is a limited amount of energy that each tree has for producing fruit. This is based on the size of the tree and the amount of sunlight, water, and fertilizer available to that tree. If a tree is not pruned, its energy will be equally divided among the hundreds of buds the tree produces and it will grow hundreds of very small peaches. When a peach tree is pruned, many branches with healthy buds are cut off. This reduction causes the tree to concentrate all of its energy on the buds that remain, and it then produces dozens of large, juicy peaches.

Pruning can be very helpful in life as well. You already prune in many areas. Think about cleaning out your house or your office. You evaluate. You reduce. You cut. I love the quote by William Morris: ‘Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ Prune away everything else.

We even prune our words. Imagine the hundreds of small unnecessary statements that come to your head, but you prudently do not say out loud! This conventional wisdom on culling our speech is my favorite: ‘If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?’ Prune away everything else.

Here’s the primary factor required for effective pruning: you must have a vision of what you want your life to be. You must have goals and a plan. Otherwise, how will you know what is an obstacle and what is beneficial? So, let’s move forward with the understanding that you have a life vision.

Check back next week for part 2 of this series…

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This past weekend marked the beginning of college football season! And I watched many teams play on Saturday, it made me think of one of the many reasons I like the game of football—it is intriguing to see eleven guys working in perfect synch and playing as one unit. I like many sports, but the ones that are particularly appealing to me are the sports that involve group effort and teamwork. Football is never about one individual player. Sure, one guy runs across the goal line, but the ten others snapped, blocked, threw, decoyed, and cleared the path for the score. There is something about a group of guys working together to accomplish a common goal that makes me want to cheer!

Whether or not football is your sport, there are many lessons to be learned from this game. There are so many parallels between team sports and life. Both require trust. Both require unity. Both require vision. Both require focus. Both require lots of practice to perfect the execution of the plan. And both require a team mindset. Today I want to talk about that mindset. We will take the four letters in TEAM to briefly discuss four points that create the formula for an outstanding team member.

As a dynamic member of a team, you need to think beyond the expected. Think outside the box. Go one step further. Stop asking ordinary questions. Stop doing what you always done just because you’ve always done it that way. Do it because it is the most effective way. Do it because it gets results. If the old way is no longer effective, come up with a better way. If the old way is not getting results, think bigger.

Understand everything you can about your mission and be creative in proposing new strategies. Be resourceful. Be innovative. Use your imagination. Think outside the box, so you can reach people and solve problems outside the box.

A job well done is always recognized. A person with a commitment to excellence will become a
stand-out individual and will always have a vital role in any organization. To achieve excellence,
you must become passionate about your work and be dedicated to quality performance each day.

I recently saw a saw a bumper sticker that said, I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just
wanted paychecks! Some days I think that describes many of us. We start out with great enthusiasm, but as time goes on, perhaps our reality is just not quite up to our initial expectations, so we become, frankly, lazy, and we begin to accept mediocrity in our lives and in our work. After a while, we are just marking time, instead of investing in the pursuit of excellence. When begin to say, “Just let me sleep for a night, and I’ll throw something together in the morning.” And we go through life thinking, “I’ll do this better next time.” “Tomorrow, I’ll start over and get it right.” And ‘tomorrow’ rarely comes, so our lives turn into ‘good enough’, and we miss out on so many opportunities and experiences just because we settled.

The irony is, we want excellence from everyone else. We want the ‘step above’ that sets apart a hotel, a concert, a restaurant, an iPhone or a pair of shoes. We choose excellence. But my question for you today, is “Do we practice excellence?”

Start where you spend many of your daylight hours–at work. Are you an employee of excellence? Do the people at your office know you are the one that does not settle for mediocrity, but puts dedicated effort into both the small tasks and the large projects?

People with a mindset of excellence will stand out, and people of excellence make the best
team members.

To be a successful team member you must be adaptable – you must be able to bend and adjust without losing sight of the mission. If you don’t, you are will find yourself “inside the box”, “in a rut” and stuck with “the way we’ve always done it.”

Adaptability is the ability to change and the key is being willing. Time changes, technology changes, circumstances change, and if you intend to stay relevant and competitive, you too, must be willing to adapt to the shifting climate. If you don’t, you will find yourself marginalized while innovative teams take the win.

I want to be very clear on this topic of change. Being willing and open to positioning yourself for success means that your methods must sometimes change and your way of conducting business must adapt to changing conditions; however, your core principles—the heart principles—should never change. Principles of honesty, integrity, loyalty, and courage must remain consistent throughout your life and your career. So, be willing to change what is necessary for you to stay relevant and effective, but also be wise and never alter your core values.

Growth is absolutely essential in a thriving team, so it is also critical in every team player. When I measure growth, I look at three things. I look at attitude, improvement, and work ethic.

First, ATTITUDE. You are on a team because you have the skill set and the knowledge to make a great contribution. Your success on the team, and in life, will be largely determined by your attitude – the way you act and react to the circumstances around you. It’s all up to you. Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

I also look for IMPROVEMENT. Everyone has room to become better, to be innovative, and to expand. Your growth comes in doing your work better and in achieving improved results. That should always be our goal, both at work and in life – to consistently grow better and to improve.

And the big one, WORK ETHIC. I say this is the big one, because it is the lynch pin for the other two. You can have a fantastic attitude and be happy and cheerful, but if all you do is walk around, drinking coffee and chatting with your teammates, you are not growing. And if you are not growing, you are not truly helping the team. Along with that positive attitude, you must have a positive work ethic. And if you have a positive work ethic, you are setting yourself up to see the improvement we just discussed. So work! Work hard and work well.

Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonalds into the most successful fast food operation in the world said, “The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.” If you want to win, you must ‘do something about it.’ Simply put, you must work.

So next time you see a football game, think about the unity and the effort required to make a successful team. The best TEAM is about winning, and winning requires dedication from each player. It is about everyone pulling together and becoming successful as a group. These mindset traits create the formula for TEAM—Thinking outside the box, Excellence, Adaptability, and Motivated growth. By embracing and practicing these four qualities, you can become an outstanding team member with skills to create a successful and significant life.

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If you are feeling incomplete or unfulfilled in life, today’s blog and podcast guest, Leon Fontaine, recommends a check-up in four critical areas. Leon is a leader of leaders. He is also an author, spiritual authority, and a great friend. Recently, I sat down with Leon to discuss the quadrants of life and what these areas can teach us about our personal satisfaction or struggles in relationships.

For the entire conversation with Leon Fontaine, listen to DAVE MARTIN’S PODCAST: SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE.

Dr. Dave: Leon, can you share the information from our recent roundtable about the quadrants of life and how that relates to everyday issues?

Leon Fontaine: People often ask me, “How do you keep yourself on the cutting edge and always in the game? I have relegated that strategy to these four areas: IQ, EQ, AQ, SQ.

The IQ is the intelligence quotient. It is the measure of your intelligence. We know there are multiple kinds of intelligence. I ask myself – am I growing? Am I becoming a more intelligence leader, person, etc? In today’s world, you can develop and go after knowledge. Knowledge must then be meditated
upon and that’s where you gain understanding, then it becomes wisdom. IQ is crucial. Many people do not continue to read and learn. They learn until they are in their early 20’s, then they defend for the rest of their lives what they have learned, and that is sad. Continue to read and learn.

You must learn from other people, too. One person can give you one thought that will cause a breakthrough and you will learn something you didn’t even know that you didn’t know.

The EQ is the emotional quotient. The EQ is your ability to work with people. You can be a brilliant person with incredible intelligence and nobody wants to work with you. Your ability to hang on to high quality staff is impossible, because you have no emotional quotient. If you are not continuing to move forward, ask yourself if you are not growing because you personally are not increasing your intelligence quotient (IQ)? Or, are you not good a getting people onto teams and understanding them and speaking into their world, and coaching them on your team (EQ)?

The AQ is the adversity quotient. Many leaders have a problem that is eating them up – a problem that sometimes cannot be solved. When that happens, when you are in that season, it is important to have your AQ at an increased level so you can handle the attack and the pain. The pain will continue until you outlast it because there is not a way to solve this problem. All great leaders will go through moments, or even a season of great pain, where a lot of them quit. But this difficult season is good news, because the copycat competition will not make it; they are low on AQ. Great leaders can handle pain and know they are going to get through it.

Dr. Dave: The more pain you can handle, the higher you can go in leadership and in life.

Leon Fontaine: Yes. As one of our friends says, the difference between good leaders and great leaders is their ability to handle pain. Pain will cause people to treat people wrong; it will cause them to make wrong decisions. Pain will make you quit because there are so many other temptations in the pain. Your ability to grow your AQ is huge.

Then there’s the SQ. The SQ is the spiritual quotient. I have some very direct thoughts on that, but you will find that with all of your success, there will be something inside of you that is empty. Most men and women who achieve goals hit depression, and it is something that very few understand. Many times they just grab another goal, but I have noticed that there is an SQ. It is the measurement of your spirituality. Now we are all spiritual, but you have to ask yourself some questions:
- Who am I?
- What is my identity?
- What is my purpose?
- What is my gifting?
I’m a Christian, and for me, my identity is that I am a child of God. Then my purpose is to advance his kingdom and to help people. I have to discover the gifts that are within me so that I can add my skills to my mission.

When I am going through a time of struggle, I would take a look at myself and I would write down these four Q’s – IQ, EQ, AQ, SQ – and evaluate where I stand related to these four areas.
- IQ – Do I just need some information?
- EQ – Are these people issues, and do I need to spend more time with some of my leadership staff, and is this a symptom that I am not recognizing some of their issues?
- AQ – Do I just need to toughen up?
- SQ – I have meditation time that is not about anything to do with achievement; it is just about me enjoying God and focusing on Him, and letting his transcendent power fill me up.

Dr. Dave: Do you think about all four of these quotients each day?

Leon Fontaine: No. I would say that there are many other things that I use, but when I feel that
something is off, even in a time of success, I come back to these four. I would say that I evaluate these weekly.

There is so much data out there, you have to determine which data you will dive into, and which data you will own.

Dr. Dave: Developing these areas of life is powerful for any leader or any person.

Leon Fontaine: These four areas can be applied to all relationships in your life - your spouse, your
children, your parents, your friendships, your employees, and the list goes on. You can focus on these four areas and can find the problem quickly.

For more information, visit

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Are you overwhelmed with concerns about money? Today’s blog and podcast guest, David Crank, can help you. David is a speaker, author, pastor, world-changer, and a great friend with a special gift for helping people in financial distress. Recently, we had a conversation about David’s latest book, Solving Your Money Problems, and discussed a few practical ways to save money and to get out of debt.

For the entire conversation with David Crank, listen to DAVE MARTIN’S PODCAST: SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE.

David Crank: Sometimes money problems become overwhelming. I wrote the book Solving Your Money Problems to teach people who have more month than money how to engage in practical budgeting processes that will help them.

One of the first things people sometimes do is cut up their credit card. I tell them to hold the credit card, because emergencies will happen, but to be wise in their spending. For instance, don’t go to Starbucks and spend $5. Put that money back. In one work week, you will have $25. In a month, $100, and who wouldn’t want a $1,200 cash gift each year? Stop going to Starbucks and spending money that you don’t have to impress people that you don’t like.

In my new book, I set out a strategy and a roadmap for people to get out of debt and show them how to pay off their credit cards. I also talk to people who are out of debt and who have their finances in order. I teach them about flying free and staying free. My family does this by using credit card points. If you have a business or organization, you can do what we do. We put all expenses on a credit card, pay off everything at the end of each month so we don’t lose any interest money, and then we use those points to travel. It really becomes an extension of your paycheck. I’m not against credit. I’m against credit that is not properly used.

Dr. Dave: That is the key. I always say that debt is just a monument to your impatience. It is proof you wanted something you have not earned yet. Just take your time.

I love the principle of the Starbucks savings. Years ago, I started saving every $5 bill. When I got a $5 bill, I would save it, and by doing that, I have put thousands away for my son’s college. It’s the simple steps.

In this book, do you have a lot of those simple ideas to help people?

David Crank: Yes, we have a lot of simple practices. I look at debt as the acronym, Doing Everything But Thinking. We buy things that make us feel good, even things that we don’t or can’t even use at the moment. This is not thinking clearly about the purchase.

Maybe you are reading this today and you think that you are so deeply in debt there is no help, and you are depressed. Listen, you didn’t get in debt overnight, and you won’t get out overnight. But you can solve your money problems by instituting some practical principles now that set you up for success later.

Credit, if used properly, can be very beneficial. When I was growing up my dad taught me several money principles that are critical to gaining wealth. He showed me how to reduce a 30 year mortgage to 15 years by simply paying an extra principle payment. And he always said, “Protect your credit at all cost.” I have always been careful with my credit, and in the crash of ’08, I was able to buy two buildings at a fraction of their cost, because I had good credit, and other people had no money. Many people needing to solve their money problems think, “I wish something like that would happen to me.” Let me tell you, to get to the big opportunities, you have to start with what you can do today. What will you do today to make yourself better?

Dr. Dave: In that down market, a lot of people became millionaires because they had solved their
money problems before the crisis occurred. Then, in the down market, they had the cash and credit to take advantage of opportunities.

David Crank: I believe that same crash is going to happen again, except on a larger scale. So I say start preparing right not—not out of fear, but in preparation for something big you want to have happen in your life. I believe if you start today, and say, “ I want to do what I can do with what I have”, then God will put his ‘super’ on your ‘natural’ and that’s what I share in this book, Solving Your Money Problems.

One other thing I see happening right now is that people will not release money to help you if you are making unwise choices. But when you start making these practical moves to solve your money problems, many times family members will help you move toward financial freedom.

Dr. Dave: Is there good debt and bad debt?

David Crank: Absolutely. Good debt is debt that generates income and has value. Borrowing can move you forward if it is done wisely.

More information on these principles and much more can be found at

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