Is Your Money Making You Stupid

Is Your Money Making You Stupid

Recently, I heard of a business owner who has a business that opened in the past six months. The product he sells has people lined up out the door during many of his operating hours.

As I write this message his income is enviable, and he enjoys gong to and from in a big fancy vehicle. He is literally and figuratively on quite a ride.

Only one problem, he is totally unaware that he is heading for a collision. Oh, there are warning signs- enough of them for an aware person to make simple course corrections and avoid the eminent disaster. Staff are walking off the job mid shift. Even though the space is newly remodeled, it is often left uncleaned from one day to the next. Questions from front line staff to management typically go unanswered for days. The busier things get, service becomes noticeably less customer-friendly, etc., etc.

However, each of these issues and others like them are only symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is that the business owner is way too comfortable with the profits and he is almost never present.

In a sense, he has had the misfortune of having started a business that has provided him with a comfortable income from day one. But, give it about a year, until the internal issues and constant staff turnover spills over to the customers in such a way that his revenue and lifestyle take a hit.

Contrast this gentleman with another local business owner who opened a similar business which was also wildly successful from day one. It also had people happy to wait in line for very little long periods of time not only because the product was outstanding, but also because as soon as they got to the front of the line they were greeted by the owner himself who greeted them by name and was just as happy to see them. After only three years he is opening his fourth location and has become a person of positive impact in the community.

It reminds me of a third company just emerging in my area that is now in 28 countries around the world and has a plan to spread from east to west across the U.S. in the next 10 years. Their motto?

“Success is never final.”

It also reminds me of football legend, the late Walter Payton. He never let success make him stupid. When asked why he never developed a signature end zone dance, he said his father once reminded him that scoring touchdowns was his job. He told him,

“When you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”

I used the above business owners as nothing more than examples. (Although I hope the first business owner catches on before the crash. He has a great product.) “Money Making You Stupid” made for an easy subject line, but before we judge the first business owner too harshly, we should first understand that it is not the money that is making him stupid.

Success, and the rewards that come with it, bring new opportunities AND new responsibilities. Having discretionary money affords habits that are not available to us when we are living hand to mouth. It also gives us a buffer in which mistakes can be absorbed. Everyone looks smart when things are going well.

When life is easy, we learn with our heads. When times are difficult, we learn with our hearts. There is something about struggling that keeps you sharp and closer to your authentic soul. As the saying goes,

“Stay lean, stay mean.”

Money (or any other comfort) can lull us into a false security and create large blind spots that may overwhelm our situational intelligence. But we always have a choice.

We are bent to succeed. Who doesn’t want to do well and have discretionary income? But we can add much more value to others and save ourselves from self-inflicted pain by practicing non-judgmental self-reflection. We do well to remember that neither our setbacks/failures have to be fatal; nor do our successes have to be final.


Rick Burris

PS – Doing this evaluation alone or with others whose life circumstances are similar to our own, may lead us to the same blind spots.
That is why hiring a professional coach, who is not closely attached to your outcomes can help you (and those you serve) enjoy a new level of abundance.

Mountain Bike Wisdom

Mountain Bike Wisdom

If you live in the Seattle area, and someone asks you how you like living there, the socially acceptable response is to say that it is miserable because it rains all the time. The reason: it is an amazing place to live with endless cultural experiences and possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts and area residents are not fond of crowds.

My family has lived in Upstate South Carolina, and so far, I am safe to tell you that we absolutely LOVE it – more all the time. One contributing factor is the DuPont State Recreational Forest which is a short drive from our house. DuPont’s 10,473-acres are a mountain biking Mecca with multiple waterfalls that have been the backdrop for several movie scenes. It is a wildly popular destination so, if you ever visit, avoid the visitor’s center parking area and go instead to the Fawn Lake parking area on Reasonover road.

The park has 86 miles of trails which are differentiated similar snow skiing runs. Easy are green circles. Blue squares are intermediate and black diamonds are the most advanced. Saturday, the boys and I made a trip up the mountain for a day of riding.

Here are five leadership thoughts the day’s ride brought to mind.

Plan Ahead

Leadership is a great adventure. Like mountain biking, leadership has plenty up and downs both of which comes with its own challenges. We never head to DuPont without first checking the bike tire pressure. We fuel the car and fuel ourselves with plenty of food and water. We’ve got our trail map and all the water we can carry. Just because we have experience on the trail, doesn’t mean planning ahead isn’t necessary each time we go. As you prepare for another week of leading, how would an hour of time each Sunday preparing yourself for the week ahead make a difference for you and those your lead?


Look Ahead

Once you are on the trail, whether walking or riding, there is a great temptation to look down and miss what is coming next. While you are staring at the ground right in front of you, it is easy to pass by spectacular scenery. Saturday, I realized that focusing on one spot can mean missing a root, fallen tree, large rock or turn in trail, any of which could have sent me over the handlebars. Tunnel vision as a leader can be detrimental too. What is that saying?

“A leader knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

I am a task-oriented person, as my leadership came to impact more and more people , I realized that putting my nose to the grindstone gave me plenty of blind spots and others suffered when I was only showing people that I could get things accomplished instead of helping them see that they can be good at them too.

Shift Ahead

Especially when you are fighting gravity, you cannot wait too long to shift gears. Like mountain trails, the conditions and circumstances of our lives and businesses create different phases some by nature take more effort than others. The key for the leader is to know when the team needs to shift gears to keep the forward/uphill progress going. Mostly it is about managing expectations and not wearing people out – yourself included. When you wait until the tension becomes too great, shifting is not only difficult, it can bring everyone to a grinding halt. Sometimes we get in such a hurry to get to the top, we think we can get there if we just work harder. We have to remember we have other tools in the tool box.

Break Ahead

This is all about control. Downhills are exhilarating. The payoff of momentum is that everything gets easier. Starting a career, a new job or a business means gravity is not your friend but by persisting a tipping point is eventually reached. I once heard that in a great economy, everyone seems smart. Riding down a mountain road is an adrenaline rush and it can lead you to overestimate your skills as a rider, and if you wait until the bike is at terminal velocity to apply the brakes, you have forfeited control. It’s the equivalent of finally having extra cash on hand and keeping no control of your spending. We have way too many people flying downhill at break-neck speed while amassing tremendous amounts of personal and business debt, just because they can. But it’s not just money. When you have momentum, more people want a piece of you. An over-estimation of your ability on the downhills of life can lead you to overcommit your time. This is where we get caught over promising and under delivering. If we haven’t crashed (emotionally, mentally, physically) already, pretty soon an uphill comes to snap us back to reality. Breaking before things get out of control allows us to enjoy the current downhill and plenty more after it.

Enjoy the Journey

If I did anything well on Saturday, it was staying present in the moment with my boys and giving thanks many times for the beauty I was experiencing. Certain areas of our family life have been as tense and stressful as ever the past few months. In addition to this, I have lately spent time with families who have very small children and those whose children are no longer in the same house. I know this window of time where both boys are in my house and at an age to take adventures like this is fleeting. I intentionally enjoyed the entire day. We had one moment sitting atop a bluff overlooking a waterfall that I will never forget. The vista had just enough space for the three of us to sit together. The pedal up was exhausting, and we were all dripping with sweat. While listening to the falls below we quickly polished off three bottles of water. As we sat there talking a bi-plane flew over. Not just a straight flyover. The pilot must have seen us sitting there because he circled right above us. Pretty cool. This past week, I have been watching a series of speakers talk about servant leadership. It has reminded me that every opportunity we get to serve others is a gift. I want to spend less time cussing gravity and more time enjoying the ride with those around me and let them know I appreciate them.


Rick Burris

Reading the Leaves

Reading the Leaves

I have come to know the importance of acknowledging your strengths. I also believe in celebrating what is right. But I find it interesting how our culture has developed a keen disconnection to reality. If I was properly following the “Facebook Guide to Life”, I wouldn’t share this message. I wouldn’t tell you that I really blow it sometimes as the leader of my family and my kids aren’t perfect. I am learning to despise in-authenticity. Mostly because I understand that unacknowledged blind spots have real consequences.

My mother-in-law’s house sits in an oak forest in northwest Arkansas. The oaks are a vital feature of the landscape and ecology and provide a beautiful habitat. They also provide leaves which are in constant need of being raked. My boys got that job during our visit and they were doing just fine until I decided to help them. That’s when the teachable moments began. I could have gone out and taken several shots of the boys raking, complete with before and after pictures to show my pride in their work ethic to all my “friends”. I could do that and move on with my life blissfully and willfully ignorant of reality.

The truth is that my boys would rather have been sitting in the house glued to a screen and, shall we say, they were not fully engaged in their work.

My response wasn’t a complete disaster. Maybe a 7 out of 10.

It’s a simple job really. Move the leaves from here to there. However, it seems the three of us, each possessing our own unique personality and temperament, had different ideas about how that should happen. To my mother-in-law’s credit she had taken he time on the front end to set clear expectations for the boys. I just decided the bar was too low and we needed to be more thorough about getting the leaves out from under the deck and from the middle of the bushes. Convincing the boys of this took considerable persistence. I would like to say that I was patient and coached the boys to this conclusion. It was more like,

“Quit arguing with me and just do it!”

The leaves were so thick that a leaf blower was of no use until the very end of the job. I made this fact known to the boys early on but, in the middle of the job, my oldest son (who has a way of “listening” to instructions and then doing it his own way) decided to pull out the cord and blower and try it anyway. I not-so gently got him back on the rake. After several tarp loads were dragged downhill and spread out, it was time to get the leaf blower out for the final clean up.

Once again, I gave specific instructions that were completely ignored. The deck is an octagon with about a foot of clearance on the stair side and three feet on the opposite side. I had told my son to blow the leaves from the high side and through the low side. I also explained to him that a leaf blower works best when you move it back and forth from side to side instead of just pointing it in one direction and expecting it to work.

Of course, my son chose to walk with the blower all the way around the perimeter of the deck essentially blowing the leaves in a circle under the deck. When I got him back to the high side, he just stood up straight and blindly stuck the blower under the deck. Finally, I grabbed the blower, crawled under the deck myself and blew the leaves out.

I wish that were the end of the story. But even after my point was made about how to get the leaves out from under the deck, my advice about moving the blower side-to-side was ignored as he continued to point the blower only in one direction. With one last discussion, he caught on and finished the job without further drama.

Once all was said and done, my son and I debriefed. To his credit, he recognized that there was nothing wrong with his ability to do the job only his attitude about it. For me, there were two distinct teachable moments. Seeing my son standing next to the deck with the blower blindly pointed beneath reminded me of the approach we typically take towards our goals. For various reasons, we give half-hearted measures in hopes that it will somehow make a difference. Without the transparency of testing and measuring we have no way of knowing how we are progressing. 

We want to be thinner but we refuse to step foot on the scale. We take no effort to track the number of calories we are taking in or burning.

We want to grow our business so we throw money at some form of advertising hoping it will give us a return but take no steps to know if our money is going to good use.

We want quality employees but we don’t have an accurate job description or real-time way of measuring performance.

The other moment that was an instant lesson for me was when I saw my son pointing the blower straight ahead while staring at immobile leaves. That Little Voice in my head said,

“That’s what it is like when you only use your default way of disciplining your kids/ (training your staff) and are not flexible enough to try another way – even the ones you know make a difference.”

I created the Life Leaders GPS because I know the difference it makes to be intentional in setting goals, having a transparent accountability and being flexible in our behavior to achieve goals . As my friend, Henry says,


“Whatever your situation, there is something, no matter how small, you can do today to make it better.”

Thankfully, this side of eternity, there are plenty more leaves out there to help us discover our blind spots.



Rick Burris


The Diagnosis is Not the Prognosis

The Diagnosis is Not the Prognosis

When I consider all that has made my life purposeful, Sometimes I think it is ironic how things started.

The diagnosis was pneumonia. 

It appeared my life would be over not long after it began. I had pneumonia three times before the age of one, each occurrence worse than the one before it. On the third occasion, as I laid in a hospital crib with a spiking fever, the doctors told my parents I might not last through the weekend. I am told, it’s no wonder they would offer this prognosis given what they could see from my history and what could be observed at the time.

My mother was determined to expect more. She wasn’t willing to accept that my life was meant to be spent in hospital beds. She broke away from the conventional medical wisdom of the day and found Glen Hesse, an amazing man and an incredible chiropractor. With his care my compromised immune system was restored and I was on my way in life.
My reason for sharing this is not to slight the medical community. On the contrary, what I share today has nothing to do with doctors.

I simply aim to raise your awareness, and mine too, of our tendency to misapply the concepts of diagnosis and prognosis in life.

A diagnosis identifies or labels by looking at symptoms/evidence and a prognosis forecasts a likely outcome.

Take some time to consider the labels and forecasts we take on board in life. You can probably find yours quickly by looking first at the loop that plays in your head.

DIAGNOSIS                                                     PROGNOSIS
“I’m from a broken home.”                               “I’ll never be a good parent.”
“I’m uneducated.”                                             “There’s no way I could be in charge.”
“I’m an introvert.”                                             “I’m supposed to be lonely.”
“I have dyslexia.”                                              “I’ll never enjoy reading.”
“I’m too old for this.”                                        “No one would hire me.”
“I’m fat.”                                                           “People won’t accept me.”
“I’m addicted.”                                                 “I can never be trusted.”

I’m so glad my mom didn’t allow a label of being a “sickly child” stick to me. I’m thankful she would not permit my diagnosis to become my prognosis. She expected more and we can too.

We can talk back to the evidence. We can talk back to the forecast. All we have done is NOT all that we are. While there is breath in our lungs there is opportunity to grow, to expect more and become more.


Rick Burris


Be the Fighter Pilot

Be the Fighter Pilot

We loved living at our camp house in Oklahoma. Once you turned into the camp entrance, it was a two-mile drive back into the property to get to the house. It was a great place for company. This time it was Russ and his son Malachi visiting.

As always, most of my time was occupied scrambling around the camp, so Russ took the boys in his truck to enjoy swimming, fishing, and horseback riding. They had just pulled back into the drive. Everyone was gathering up the masks, snorkels and wet towels before coming in the house. Except for my oldest son, Micah. It seems that during the ride, a little white airsoft BB had caught his attention. I suppose it was the sound of it rolling around the cab floor, mostly the magpie effect I’m sure. He decided to pick it up for a closer look. After a thorough inspection of the BB, he did the only logical thing one could do, he stuck it in his ear.

(I know what you’re thinking, but sometimes “why” is the wrong question for problem solving.)

Had he just put the BB slightly in his ear, this story would be over. Micah’s not a “half-way” kid. It was important for him, in that moment, to get the BB as far down the ear canal as possible, having no idea the chaos it would set off in the Burris household.
For the next week, our family had one goal that superseded all other obligations. Get that BB out. On first glance, it looked like it was going to be so easy. You could see it in there and Micah was so calm about it. We tried every pair of tweezers in the house to no avail, then went out and bought one of every kind off the WalMart shelf. No luck. All we did was make it worse. We tried hot compresses, cold compresses, ear wax candles, and suction. Nothing was working and this was just Day One.

Monday morning Kate took him into the primary care physician. Their tweezers didn’t work either. She left with a referral to an ear-nose-and throat specialist. Micah was getting more uncomfortable each day. Everyone we talked to suggested a remedy and we tried them all. His ear canal had become red and swollen, mostly from all the digging. He wasn’t sleeping well and neither were we. Our repeated attempts only made Micah more agitated. By the time he arrived at the ENT, it was difficult to go near his ear without a protest.

I’m sure this young ENT is a fine doctor by now but his demeanor wasn’t instilling confidence in me and Micah caught the same vibe. Everything about his manner sent a message that he was unsure if he had what it was going to take to get the BB out. He responded to Micah’s fear with hesitancy. He inspected and re-inspected the ear. Pulled his tray of accoutrements over and tried one after the other with no success. After a few attempts he sent us home and told us to come back the next morning to let his partner take a stab at it (bad choice of puns).

Not much sleeping in the Burris house that night. We had no choice but to wait. By this time, we were into this BB to the tune of $800 and we had run out of options.


The next morning, we are sitting in the exam room and in walks the new ENT. I knew the second he opened the door, this BB was coming out today. It wasn’t swagger exactly but he carried himself like a fighter pilot. No telling what else this guy had mined from ears in his career. But this wasn’t his first rodeo. He was pleasant but wasted little time with small talk. After a brief reassuring conversation with Micah, he reached over and grabbed one instrument off the tray. Less than 10 seconds later the BB was out. That was it. No need for threats of punishment or bribes of rewards for Micah to lay still. The airsoft BB saga was over.

The problem the rest of us struggled with for days, this guy solved in seconds. He had plenty of options of how he could have walked into that room. He could have chosen not to come into the room at all. We might have been really impressed to hear his pedigree or mildly interested to learn his golf handicap, but we needed a little plastic BB out of an ear and that is what he showed up to handle. We were all glad he did.

As I finish this message I am just a few hours from boarding a flight to Tegucigalpa with my family. For the fifth year in-a-row, we will have the privilege of spending our week with some amazing kiddos. I also get to spend the time with one of my great friends, Artie. Artie pastors Christ Community Church in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He sent me a message a couple of days ago to ask if I would speak at the church service on Sunday. What I intend to share is related to what I am sharing here.

Bear with me now. Even if a “sermon” is not your cup of tea, there is something here for you. I promise.

The boys and I recently came across a story in the book of Judges. I guess I never got it before but when I did, I couldn’t believe how powerful it was. I’ll give you the most-brief version possible.

The Angel of the Lord (Jesus) comes down, sits under a tree. Along comes Gideon. Jesus say’s,

“Hello there Mighty Warrior.”

Gideon then proceeds to expend nearly every ounce of energy he can muster to tell Jesus why he is NOT, in fact, a mighty warrior. He puts on quite a show trying to prove his point.


Jesus is very patient with him but at one point he finally says to Gideon.

“Go in your strength. I am with you.”

Talk about an ‘AH-HA!’ moment. When I heard that I felt like GRU from Despicable Me

“Light Bulb!”

That’s it isn’t it. We need to “show up” in life with our strength. Go in our strength. Be the fighter pilot of our life – the hero of our own story.

Gideon was a Mighty Warrior. He went on to do plenty of butt kickin’. (for Jesus… For my sensitive friends).


He was the guy for the job. Who else is going to be the hero of our story? What is the hunger in the world you were made to feed? Go in your strength and do it. You are NOT alone.


Rick Burris


My River Runaways Part 3 of 3

My River Runaways Part 3 of 3

There I was standing at the end of the road wondering if an officer would ever show. It couldn’t have been much more than a minute later. I look down the gravel road and low and behold, there came Jimmy and Tommy walking right toward me.

They were talking to each other and hadn’t noticed me yet. They looked disheveled. We wore our shirts tucked in but theirs were untucked and, of course, they had also taken the time to make sure their pants were sagging. Big camp no-no there. Thankfully, they also looked a little out of breath.

Not sure how they would respond when they finally looked up, I figured moving towards them could start the chase. I went with crossing my arms and cocking my head a little, as if to suggest, what took you so long? I’ve been waiting all day. It worked. Besides the look of surprise, they both shook their heads in defeat when they finally noticed me. To my surprised, they walked right up to me.

I stood silently until they got real close and asked very quietly,

“Where were you two thinking?”

(It was one of those “parent-type” questions. The kind you don’t expect a response to other than, “I don’t know.” so you can hit them with a “you’re in BIG trouble mister!” statement.)

But they did respond – both at the same time. As soon as they spoke, I could tell they were relieved to see me. It seems the field I cut across, they ran all the way around. Turns out going around the field, especially when you are running away, is a much different experience than going across the field. Besides the briers and brambles, whatever they encountered, gave them enough incentive to be ready to be caught.

Just to offer a bit more leverage, I said,

“I’ve already called the sheriff and he is on his way. You’ve got two options. We can stay here and wait to talk to the sheriff or you can head back to the campsite with me right now.”

They had other options, of course, but they chose the latter.

“Fine. Then pull up your pants and tuck in your shirts. Let’s go.”

Heading back across the field, I changed my tone from authoritarian to counselor.

“The group is worried sick about you. My advice when you get back is to be humble and clear things up quickly.”

That was too much for them to take on board.

We gathered together and picked a spot to sit down. I started with explaining how compliant the boys were when I found them and that they were ready to clear things up. (I’m thinking this is going well. We will talk it out, have dinner and move on.) Not so fast. Back in the safety of the group, their countenance changed completely. Not for the better. They both went into a whole “thug”routine. It took several hours before they finally came back around.

It set off a tension that did not leave the group for several days down the river. Enough that my co-chief and I slept with their smelly boots in our tent for several days as a small insurance plan that they would not disappear at night. Being that close to home was tough on Jimmy. And being that close to Jimmy was tough on Tommy.

The best solution was to keep paddling and get as far downriver as we could. I moved Jimmy to the cargo area of my canoe the next day. He was like a cat on a hot tin roof and seemed ready to pounce at the first familiar landmark. After lunch, I stuck him in the bow seat and put a paddle in his hand to keep him occupied.

With some distance between us and Salisbury, both boys settled down completely. We finished the trip near the coast and had a great couple of days enjoying the beach. Jimmy and Tommy were great contributors to the groups and both did well when they returned home for good.

One of my biggest takeaways from my years in therapeutic camping is that I am no different from the so-called “troubled” boys. Our circumstances might be quite dissimilar; but when someone offers me an opportunity to cut across the field, and I choose to go around, I can end up in a lot of briers and brambles that could have been avoided.
We weren’t made to remain static in life but the unfortunate truth is that, sometimes the success we achieve serves only to widen our “comfort-zones” and leaves us quietly knowing there is more to life, while our habits serve only to maintain the status quo.
But I believe we were made with a purpose, and given unique gifts to use for good in the world. That’s why I created the Life Leaders GPS and it’s why I made a significant investment of my time and resources to build it in an online platform where it serves those who are ready to grow through life and have more confidence about the impact their life is making on others.





Rick Burris


My River Runaways Part 2 of 3

My River Runaways Part 2 of 3

E-tool and toilet paper (a very quick 360 scan) but no boys in sight. I pulled the rest of of the group together, spoke with my co-chief briefly before informing the other boys what had just happened. They were genuinely surprised and none replied affirmatively when asked if they were aware of Jimmy and Tommy’s plans.

Together we became our own search party with the boys strung out between my co-chief and I in a side-by-side line. We made a few broadening sweeps of the woods until we came to a clearing at the back edge of a farmer’s field. A few hundred yards away we could see the intersection of a country road. No doubt the boys were gone and by this time they could have made their way across the field and ran a significant distance down one of the road.

A collective search was no longer practical. We still had canoes left down by the river, tents to set up, wood to gather, dinner to cook, and oh yes, a latrine to dig. As you might imagine, the other boys were clearly unsettled. Based on their life experiences and their own track records, there were any number of negative ways in which they could respond to the two boys running away. My co-chief and I took a moment to speak privately a few feet away from the boys and agree on our next course of action. Above all, we knew that our own attitudes and behavior would play a major role in the immediate and long-term outcomes and would greatly influence the entire group.

The first thing we did was to stop and reassure the boys. We said a prayer together because we knew Intervention was needed; and to help maintain a focus of concern for the safety of Jimmy and Tommy. My co-chief took the remaining group members back to get the campsite set up. This was the pre-cell-phone era. It’s quite possible that exact location is still waiting on a signal. I needed a phone. I cut diagonally across the field towards the intersection to find a house.

I did, in fact find houses on the road. Now picture this. The intersection was not a crossroads. A paved road basically terminated at the edge of the field (from which I had just emerged) but offered a turn to the left on a gravel road. That’s the spot I was now standing surveying the option of houses. The closest “house” was a trailer. Pardon my French (and the cliché that follows) but there was crap strung out all over the small fenced-in front yard along with a few cars up on blocks. I knew someone was home because I could hear banjo music and someone hollering to tell the pit bulls to shut up.
Next door was a modest brick home and down the road across the street was a loooong drive leading to a large home. Which door would you pick to knock on? Yeah, me too. I strolled casually past the trailer (careful not to make any sudden movement) and knocked on the door of the brick home. No one home. Next, I made the trek down the drive to the large house feeling more settled as I approached the door and thankful I wouldn’t have to brave the pit bulls (or their owner). Are you kidding me?! Is everyone on this road on vacation, or are they just reluctant to answer the door for a random fatigue-wearing stranger with no vehicle?

(Alright, Rick, suck it up. Be a man and go knock on Door #1.)

Somehow I knew that knocking on the front door of the trailer would be even more suspicious. Besides, I’m not sure how I would have gotten there around all the junk. The clock was ticking and I was desperate for a phone. I went up the small steps to the back door.

No need to knock. Right as I reached the top step (no exaggeration) a “gentleman” clad only in his tightie-whities cracked the door open. From behind the chain and while holding the dogs back, he growls out to me,

“Whadya want!”

After hearing me explain my situation, he slammed the door without a word. I heard the clunking of footfalls through the trailer first away from me and then back. The banjo music (only playing in my head) was getting louder. He cracked the door back open and thrust out a cordless phone.

Two quick calls. One back to camp and the next to the Sheriff’s Office. Of course, I had to knock on the door mid-call to ask my new friend his address. (I’m pretty sure they recognized it). Calls made. I’d love to stay for tea. Thank you but I’ll just wait out here on the road.

I couldn’t believe what happened next. I can’t wait to share it with you tomorrow.
A few things occur to me, however. This was certainly not the wildest moment from my camping days. Plenty more stories for other days. Recalling this story also reminds me that oftentimes as a leader, what is taking place inside your head feels anything but confident. But eventually you realize that the only way forward is through fear. These are the times we begin to understand we have been given an unlimited supply of resourcefulness.


Rick Burris


My River Runaways Part 1 of 3

My River Runaways Part 1 of 3

Even two people on a month-long river canoe trip, take a couple of days to get into a good routine. Doing the trip with ten troubled-teenage boys can add a day or two to that equation. Wake up. Get the fire going. A few minutes to pray before getting the boys out of their tents. Breakfast. Load the canoes. Make your miles and set up the next camp somewhere off the riverbanks.

We would spend two weeks paddling down the Yadkin River until we got through High Rock Lake. Our resupply van from camp would pick us up and get us around Tuckertown Reservoir and Lake Tillery and put us back in the water for two more weeks on the PeeDee River.

Trips like this took months to plan. They were easier when you had a group of boys who had river canoe experience but, if the only goal was getting down the river, the most important element to a smooth trip was a well-functioning group. Translation: well-behaved boys.

Of course, getting down the river safely was a given, but the real goal of therapeutic camps is life transformation. Funny thing about transformation, it doesn’t usually happen when we spend all our time being well-behaved. It’s interesting the growth that can happen right after we make a mess of things. That’s how it worked out for Jimmy and Tommy (fictional names, real people).

Jimmy was new in the group, he did more inheriting of the trip than planning it. As it happens, we would be paddling right past his hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina. He was a quiet kid but plenty was churning inside him. The closer we got to Salisbury, the more his anxiety mounted. He hid it well from everyone but Tommy.

Tommy’s logical mind had a hard time catching up with is emotional mind sometimes. It often made life more difficult for him than necessary. Unbeknown to the rest of us, the two had been hatching a plan to ditch the group when we got to Salisbury.

The paddling day was over and time to set up camp. We had carried all the gear up off the river to a nice flat area. As was typical, we established a place for everything. Tent area here. Kitchen there. Tarp-gear there. Canoes, paddles and life jackets would go right there once the canoes were clean. Lastly, was the location for the latrine just far enough off the river and an appropriate distance from the rest of the campsite.

This far into the trip we had the routines down so we split up the group to expedite the process. A few boys with my co-“chief” down at the river washing out the canoes. A couple of boys getting everything out for supper. Jimmy and Tommy digging the latrine. I was spending my time going back and forth from the latrine site to the river to check on things.

As you might have guessed, on my second-round back to the latrine site, there lay the e-tool and a ziplock bag of toilet paper, but no boys anywhere in sight…


The sting of bad decisions make great incentives to learn. My awareness was increasing rapidly in that moment.

Have you had a few moments like that?

Part 2 tomorrow.




Rick Burris


Shake It Off

Shake It Off

Last week I made mention of the Drama Triangle that occurs in unconscious and toxic work environments. It is the relationship dynamic in which one person plays the role of Victim, another the Villain, and the third the Hero. Giving up your need to be right, authentically feeling and expressing your feelings, and separating facts from stories is the way to do your part to stay out of the Drama Triangle and remain in a state of conscious leadership.

But even when you are clear of the drama, you may also be expressing one of the following personas that is not serving you well as a conscious professional.

Here is a list of personas active in the workplace. They are not necessarily negative but, take a look and see if any describe you.

Workplace Personas (Source: Conscious Leadership Group)
Energy Bunny
Peter Pan
Súper Competent
Good Listener
Good Parent
Nice Guy
Control Freak
Time Cop
Repeat Offender
Drill Sergeant
Mr. Sarcasm
Worry Wart
Needy One
Reliable One

Each of us display many personas depending upon our circumstances and present company. The beautiful thing is that we can play with personas and consciously select a persona that will serve us in the moment. If you’ve identified with any of the above and decided it isn’t working for you, be like Taylor and

“Shake it off!”
“Shake it off!”
“Ooo Ooo Ooo!”


Rick Burris

Don’t Think or Feel Alone

Don’t Think or Feel Alone

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”

Do you know who wrote that line? How about this one?

“Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.”

The same guy wrote both, and not just any guy, but the one who was deemed the wealthiest man who had ever lived. Not only that he was also said to have been gifted as being the wisest man ever. He had the rare combination of having a ton of cash and a lion’s share of smarts. The author of these quotes was experiencing a financial life, an intellectual life, an emotional life, and a spiritual life that may be higher than any of us will ever experience. I imagine that it would have been difficult to see lack in his life. He must have been attractive as a leader, and easy to trust with decision-making. But even THAT guy knew a secret.

Left to our own thinking and our own emotions, we have the propensity to be futile and destructive creatures. We are conditioned with biases that obscure our view of reality and, worse yet, distort our emotions. That combinations yields us capable of making a royal mess of things. I like how Laura Haliday put it in THISpiece on cognitive biases in the Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life blog.

“The human mind is wonderful, but it is not perfect. Cognitive biases, for instance, are genuine limitations in our thinking of which we are not consciously aware. Influencing the decisions we make, the views we uphold, or the conclusions we reach, often in a detrimental way, cognitive biases cannot be altogether eliminated, but they can be kept in check through the power of mindfulness.”

I am writing to you as a man who battles with his biases. BIG TIME! Here are three things I am learning.

One is too small a number for greatness. We either believe we can do it all on our own or we tend to seek out those who we perceive to be like-minded, and like-valued. That’s not all bad but, we were not created for a vacuum or an echo chamber. We need the influence of others, especially people who do not think like we do or react emotionally to situations that same as us if we desire to make a lasting impact.

You need renewal. When your own tank is empty it is very difficult to fuel others. The clue to look for is the Cycle of Futility. If your thoughts and feelings keep leading you back to the same unresourceful and unsuccessful state, it is time to get out of your “stinking thinking” and automatic negative thoughts. I am telling you, friend, I am no stranger to this, trust me. “Heroing” yourself with mindless activity is not the way out of the cycle and neither is pity. (Read THIS article). You don’t go uphill physically, financially, emotionally, etc. on an empty tank. You need people who care enough and ideas that are high enough to challenge your thinking and feelings and point you uphill.

Measure success appropriately. If success ends with you, it will never be enough. There won’t be enough money or enough accolades to satisfy. Even if, like me, you are in short supply of both, remember that there is a bigger game to be played.

You are unique and in all of time there will never be another person exactly like you. There is a hunger in the world (beyond your own) that you were born to feed. It is worth finding.


Rick Burris


Why Hire a Coach Part 3 of 3

Why Hire a Coach Part 3 of 3

In some way, most of us love to learn even when we resist (hate) being taught. Experience tells me that we are designed to grow continually. Because of what I do for a living, I might be more inclined to seek examples of inspiration than many. But, isn’t it encouraging when we see examples of people who have overcome challenges or achieve a major life goal. I am especially energized when I see people advanced in years who still possess a healthy appetite for growth. It persuades me to be a person who grows through life and doesn’t just go through life.

Whether we are acute or chronic growth-seekers, there is nothing more empowering than the belief of others. Today is Day 3 of 3 in my series about the value of hiring a proper professional coach. Among all the value that a coach adds it is their belief in your potential that tops the list. John Whitmore was one of the pioneers of the executive coaching movement and he put it this way,

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their growth.”

Here are a few other key beliefs that a proper coach holds about you.


  • Believing in you is imitating how God works change in us.
  • You are the steward of your own life and as a leader of your life you take responsibility for your own growth.
  • You are a uniquely designed individual and have your own map of the world and it is to be respected.
  • Your map (and ours too) is NOT the territory.
  • You grow through authentic relationships and a learning community.
  • You can learn from life and be transformed through evaluated experience rather than through information alone.
  • You are responsible for your behavior but you are not your behavior.
  • You can change your behavior as needed to serve others, yourself, and your goals better. The more flexible your behavior the greater influence you have on others.
  • You are not an un-resourceful person but you may be in an un-resourceful state.
  • There is no failure in your life, only feedback.

Here is how a coach differs from other professional with whom you can partner for growth. All are valuable in the right context, but all are not equal in their methodology or appropriateness to the specific conditions and circumstances of your life. Here is a simplified comparison.

consultant comes to you as the expert in your field/profession they share what made them successful. A coach does NOT need to be an expert in your field to help you be more successful in your field. A coach needs to be an expert in the coaching process and the principles of success.

counselor provides therapy/healing for hurting people and uses the past for diagnosis and treatment. A coach provides structure, support, encouragement and accountability to empower healthy people to grow. A coach focuses on the present and future and uses the past only as context.

mentor advises you on your situation based on their experience. A coachdraws on your own resourcefulness to find answers and solutions from within. Pastor and coach Dale Stoll put it this way,

“Mentoring is imparting to you what God has given me; coaching is drawing out of you what God has put in you.”

Finally, a trainer is teaching by sharing information or helping you apply a procedure. A coach helps uncover the enterprises that exist and are unfolding within you by serving as a thinking partner who helps you focus on aligning your resourcefulness for the success you desire.

Dr. Gary Collins, author of Christian Coaching said,

“Coaching is the art and practice of guiding a person or a group from where they are toward the greater competence and fulfillment that they desire.”

It can be hard to see the picture when you are in the frame. Perhaps the greatest value a coach provides is higher awareness. Coaches help make the unconscious conscious. A coach is a powerful and empowering partner for your success and greater significance.


Rick Burris


Why Hire a Coach Part 2 of 3

Why Hire a Coach Part 2 of 3

Life doesn’t reward us for standing still, does it. Thankfully, we are not like some creatures who must learn to run shortly after birth to avoid being eaten. In fact, compared to any creature, humans get much more time being nurtured before being set lose “in the wild”. It’s hard to think of any creature who spends the first 18 to 20 years of their life developing under the care and nurture of their parents.

One dynamic of this longer development process is that it softens the impact of life’s challenges because our parents absorb much of the responsibility for the outcome of these challenges. Unless intentionally provided, we have few opportunities to learn, apply and reflect upon many of the hard skills and soft skills necessary for career and life success. We also spend much of the first two decades of our life taking little initiative for our own learning. During these formative years, we are receiving and creating conditioning and habits which we carry into the rest of our lives.

Life continually requires us to obtain more resources and we are also driven by our own desires to be, do or have more. take on new information, learn new procedures, and develop new skills. We can stay at the same level, but we will only get the same results. To go up, we must raise our lid.

As we saw yesterday, much education and training only begins the learning cycle. That doesn’t make it negligible, it simply means that we must take ownership of it to engage in it and make it profitable to us. Formal education and training have great value, but why is it that a person can become tremendously successful without it?

John Rockefeller shirked school at age sixteen and decided it was time to start his career. He became one of the richest men in history.

John Glenn dropped out of college to fight in WWII.

Rachel Ray dropped out of college after two years.

Steve Jobs attended only six months of college.

Mark Twain only had a minimal formal education.

Albert Einstein dropped out of high school and failed the university entrance exam.

Neither Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres finished college.

All these people were able to take the content of their lives and turn it into the curriculum of their growth and success. That same opportunity is available to every person every day. Life is “on-the-job” training. Whether it is in marriage or family relationships, in friendships, in a work setting, in formal training or elsewhere, opportunities abound.

So, what does a coach have to do with all of this? Who needs a coach if they can just take ownership of their lives and figure it out all on their own?

The largest coaching accreditation organization in the world, the International Coaching Federation (ICF), describes coaching this way.

“Professional coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses, or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.”

A proper coach comes along side you in the learning that life offers. The coaching relationship is a designed alliance in which you and a coach are equal partners without the coach being attached to your outcomes. A coach brings no agenda to the relationship except to help you be successful in your goals.

In the learning cycle, the coach is a thinking partner in the reflection step and offers you healthy accountability in the application steps. The most valuable element is that it is happening in real time. It is current. You are not storing up information with a wish that it may someday be relevant. With a coach, you have another person’s energy and intuition to help you tap into the resources you already have to meet today’s challenges. A coach can also see some of the conditioning and habits that may be limiting you. Rather than giving you all the answers to your challenges, a coach helps you see things more clearly so you can discover those answers yourself.

Here are other benefits of coaching. (Source: ICF independent study)

Increased Productivity
Coaching maximizes potential and, therefore, unlocks latent sources of productivity.

Positive People
Building the self-confidence of employees to face challenges is critical in meeting organizational demands.

Return on Investment
Coaching generates learning and clarity for forward action with a commitment to measurable outcomes. An independent study showed the vast majority of companies (86%) say they at least made their investment back.

This week I received the following endorsement from one of my coaching clients.

“Rick is an excellent Performance Coach who has helped me to increase my results in my professional and personal life. Rick delivers clarity and has helped me to see things that I was not seeing in certain beliefs about myself and my performance. I highly recommend that you connect with Rick if you are looking for highly skilled Coach to help you to perform at higher levels.” Michael B.

A Word of Caution: As you may have noticed, I often use the term, Life Strategist, as a title. I do this because it best describes the overall service I provide through Leaders Fuel. Coaching others through a process of life transformation is what my heart beats for. It is what the content of my life and character and my formal training have prepared me to do.

As I am sure you have seen, there are a plethora of idiots out there with the self-appointed title of “coach” but zero understanding of the coaching process. Here is the quickest way to spot them within the context of a coaching relationship. They are quick to tell you what to do. What you need from a coach is not their advice or their “expertise” in your business or life. You are the expert. A proper coach will help you understand that better.

There is more to finding a proper coach. Tomorrow, I will share key presuppositions a coach believes about you and how coaching differs from other interventions.


Rick Burris


Why Hire a Coach Part 1 of 3

Why Hire a Coach Part 1 of 3

If you calculated the amount of time and money you have spent on training in your professional career, what would that add up to in terms of dollar amount and hours spent? You would need to include your formal education in that equation.

Next question:

From the last seminar that you attended, can you list your top seven takeaways without referring to any notes or conference material?

Or, (not to step on any toes) but what was the message about two weeks ago in your place of worship?

You might be able to recall all of this information quickly, but if you can’t, you are not alone. Look at these results from a study on adult learning done by the National Testing Labs in Bethel, Maine which I am borrowing from the Accelerated Coaching Training Manual from the Lifeforming Institute.

They found that retention rate from lectures (two weeks later) hovers around 5%. However, for discussion retention rises to 50%; for hands-on learning, it reaches 70% and when learners teach the material to others, retention hits 90% – nearly 20 times more than from a lecture!

What is it the Chinese Proverb says?

“I hear, I forget, I see, I remember, I do, I understand.”

What makes teaching others so potent is that you primarily teach yourself. You engage in the content at an entirely different level. Dare I say you enter into the spirit of the material. You take ownership of it – at least the opportunity for this is greater. You go farther into the following learning cycle.

Step 1: Challenge
Step 2: Learning (information gathering)
Step 3: Application
Step 4: Reflection – which circles back to the challenge.

The shortcoming of many modalities is that without intentional engagement on the part of the learner, they stop at the information dump step. They miss out on the outcomes of the “Application” and “Reflection” Steps. Even if you throw in a test to prove information has been retained, you have no guarantee the information has been applied beyond a momentary regurgitation. The outcome of application is skill development. The reflection step opens the door to character development. This is why a philosophy based in the premise that people are empty vessels that just need to be filled with the right information does produce people who are any wiser or more effective and successful in their personal or professional lives. There is no denying that a diploma, degree, or certification can open doors and add credibility. But you and I can name people with plenty of letters behind their name who lack the character for the positions they hold.

Character is the difference. The American education system caught onto this about thirty years ago and has worked very hard to incorporate character development into school cultures. I defy you to walk into any public school and not see a poster or banner promoting character development. But you can’t develop character with information alone.

Consider this, you could read every driver training manual available, so much so, that you could ace a written test. But until you get behind the wheel, you are NOT a driver. Eventually, driving happens automatically. That still doesn’t keep you from driving like you are the only one on the road. It doesn’t protect you from the fallacy that where you are driving is much more important than the destination or arrival time of every other driver. It also doesn’t protect you from habitual road rage.

When you consider the internalization that happens in the latter steps of the learning cycle and then you add that to a person who takes ownership of the entire cycle, you can understand why Jim Rohn said,

“Formal education will make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune (rich).”

Reflection causes you to go inward. When you go inward your tap into resources previously undiscovered. If you are willing, you also see the gaps and blocks that get in the way of success. This is where a proper coach can enter the equation and add tremendous value and growth than previously experienced. Tomorrow I will begin to tell you why and how this happens.

See you then.


Rick Burris


Where is Your Compass Pointing

Where is Your Compass Pointing

Is personal growth important to you?

Viktor E Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning wrote,

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

The past several days I have taken time off writing to focus on my own personal growth. It has included a 13-day detox for a lifestyle reset and prepare me for a full commitment to a Paleo Diet (see information on Paleo here). It was 13 days with no solid food, but smoothies, morning coffee, plenty of water and kombucha. It produced amazing results in terms of my energy levels and gave me a major jumpstart to living life at the weight that supports my aspirations. During this time, I also advanced to the rank of Nikyu (Green Belt/4th “White” rank). This means Green Belt to Purple Belt, then Brown Belt before Black Belt testing. With each level, the tests get longer and more difficult. Each one requires a deeper commitment to cardiovascular fitness and skill development. Which translates into more frequent visits to the dojo and more time training at home.

Growth is also coming in the form of evaluating my circumstances and taking the steps necessary to provide for my family. I am finding places where I can add value to others.

I am reminded that experience is a given, but personal growth is a choice. Often, the choice to grow is the choice to do what you fear. Today, I read that fear is like the compass that leads us to growth.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“What we fear of doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

Tomorrow, it will mean calling several people who have no idea who I am, and offer free 30-minute leadership workshops.

I wonder what form personal growth is taking on in your life right now.

What are you intentionally doing to promote your own growth? I would be curious to hear your response.

Where is your fear compass pointing?

Let me know.


Rick Burris

What Do I Do With My Hands

What Do I Do With My Hands

Part 5 of 5 – The Hands

Let’s jump right into benefits of proper use of hand gestures that have been demonstrated by various studies.


  • Holler and Beatie found that gestures increase the value of our message by 60%
  • Researchers have found that infants who use more hand gestures at 18-months old have greater language abilities later on. Hand gestures speak to great intelligence.
  • Gesturing helps you access memories. Using hand gestures while you speak not only helps others remember what you say, it also helps you speak more quickly and effectively
  • Nonverbal explanations help you understand more. One study found that forcing children to gesture while they explained how to solve math problems actually helped them learn new problem-solving strategies.
  • Hand gestures make people listen to you. Spencer Kelly, associate professor of Psychology and co-director of the Center for Language and Brain at Colgate University found that gestures make people pay attention to the acoustics of speech. Kelly said, “Gestures are not merely add-ons to language – they may actually be a fundamental part of it.”
  • In a human behavior research lab, thousands of hours of TED talks were analyzed and a striking pattern was found: The most viral TED Talkers spoke with their words AND their hands. Specifically, the least popular TED Talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures during the 18-minute talk. The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures—that’s almost double! 

Here are a few suggestions to practice when using your hands for speaking.

Stay in the box.
Think outside the box, but gesture within the box. Appropriate hand speaking space is from the top of your chest to the bottom of your waist. If you go outside this box, it’s seen as distracting and out of control.
Make your gestures purposeful.
Just like you bullet point out a pitch or presentation, do the same with gestures. The best Ted Talkers used their hands purposefully to explain important points.
Know what you want to say.
If you have a big speech coming up, prepare your words, otherwise your gestures can try to overcompensate. According to Elena Nicoladis, a researcher at the University of Alberta who studies hand gestures, people who have trouble finding the right words are more likely to speak with their hands.
The smoother the better.
We love fluid hand gestures. Jerky and robotic prepared moves are distracting. Practice speaking with your hands until it feels and looks natural.
Film yourself.
Film yourself chatting with someone on the phone. You might be surprised what kinds of gestures you use and how many you use during the conversation. Then, film your speeches and elevator pitch. Have a friend give you feedback on your gestures.

Remember, think about your verbal content and match your hand gestures to what you are saying:

    The easiest and most basic hand gesture is numerical. ANY TIME you say a number, do the corresponding gesture–this makes your number easier to remember for the listener, adds movement and warmth to your body language and serves as a nonverbal anchor in the conversation.
    Any time you want to emphasize a small point like something that they shouldn’t take too seriously or a small addition–show it with a pinching motion.
    Want to make a big grand gesture? Then, the ‘everything’ gesture is your go to. With the elbows at the side, sweep both hands (palm-down) from right to left. It is as if you are sweeping across all of the ideas to be inclusive.
    Alternate: This can also be used to say you are ‘Wiping the slate clean’ or pushing something out of the way.
    This is a really easy one and can be used to literally show someone what level something is. You can use this to indicate how big or small something is or where someone stands.
    A steeple is when you lightly tap the tips of your fingers together. It is seen as a wise gesture, but don’t overuse it.
    Whenever you move your hand or gesture upwards, you indicate some kind of growth or increase. This can be used to indicate the expected growth, excitement or direction where something is headed.
  7. YOU/ME
    Any time you gesture into someone else’s space or personal area, you tie them to your words. Do this with the open hand or palm. Pointing is very aggressive. You can do the ‘you’ gesture to make someone feel included or highlight that something you are talking about applies to the person you are speaking with.
    Any time we bring our hands in towards our heart or chest, we usually want to indicate to ourselves.
    When you bring both of your hands together, it is a gesture of combining and is a great way to symbolically show two forces coming together as one. You can even mesh or fold your hands together to show complete togetherness.
    When your hands are at a 45-degree angle with the palms facing up, you are showing openness and honesty. It’s like you are saying you are laying it all out on the table.
    Alternate: When your palms face up with fingers spread, it means you need something.
  10. WE
    The last one can be the most powerful. This gesture can be used whenever you are speaking in a group or to an audience. You open up your arms as if you are wrapping them in a hug, making the ‘we’ gesture. You can also do this when standing next to someone and actually placing your hands behind them as if to indicate you are in my inner circle. It is a lovely ‘come together’ gesture when used correctly.

There it is. In five days (imagine me holding up five fingers) it is impossible to cover body language comprehensively. But, I have given you  some great points to refer to as needed.

You keep reading. I will keep you included in the messages.


Rick Burris


Voice Power

Voice Power

If you have been following the Body Language this week, you have already gotten 2 important tips on facial expressions, 5 categories of reminders on head movements, and key information on how to position and move your lower body for establishing better connections with others. The messages are short (as promised) with techniques that can be quickly applied. However, none of it is valuable until you test it and experience better results for yourself. It is all information that is obvious when it is pointed out to us but we do most of it subconsciously. 

I will always enjoy learning more about body language, but for these messages, I am purposefully absorbing volumes of information and sharing only bite-size pieces. I am doing this because I know you are much smarter than I am and you have access to the same information I do. I am assuming that bringing these bits to your consciousness is adding some value to you and giving you something to use immediately. If nothing more is accomplished this week than for you and I to become more aware of how our body language influences relationships, then my job will be successfully accomplished.

Here is what I ask in return. Share a bit about your world with me. Send me an email. Let me know if this is helpful. Also, let me know what leadership topics/issues are important to you and those you influence. I am honestly curious to know what matters to you right now. Out of the hundreds of emails that I have sent in these past 9 months, there has never been a response that wasn’t met with a personal reply. Beyond that, I am more than willing to press into topics you are facing right now.

Public Service Announcement complete. Let’s get to today’s topic – The Voice

In the realm of body language, there is nothing we are more susceptible to than the voice. Listening to another person at the highest levels possible is a full-body experience. It is the voice that ties all other movements and body positions together or alarms our intuition that something does not quite add up. I mean, finish this sentence,

“It’s not what you say, it is ______ ______ ______ _____ .”

How can a non-seeing person identify a speaker and know so much about those they meet? Every one of us has our own unique voice. I am married to an identical twin. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say to one of them,

“Oh my gosh! You sound just like your sister!”

I say nonsense! Spend a large amount of time around anyone and you will begin to take on each other’s mannerism and expression. But, I have always been able to distinguish my wife’s voice from her sister’s even when I cannot see them. It’s true they sound very similar but there are plenty of distinctions between them that makes it easy to tell which one is talking.

Think about this. What is the most crucial tool of a hypnotist? It’s not the pocket watch that is reaching your subconscious. It is the proper application of voice tones that is reaching the place where our imagination lies. The words matter but not nearly as much as how they are said. Much, much more could be said here but permit me to move on.

My point is that our voice is part of our signature and most importantly, it is another tool in the box that we can learn to use more skillfully to positively influence others.

Here are three clues to use today.

Emotions are conveyed through voice tone (and body language) and content is conveyed through words. 

Without proper voice tone, we cannot control the tenor of the conversation. Think right now, what is the best company you have done business with in terms of customer service? For me, it is Cabela’s. Just for fun, call their customer service 800.234.4444. See how many rings it takes for them to answer and pay attention to the tone of voice of the person on the other end. Tell the person you are looking for blowgun darts, for example. My experience has been that I had a friend on the line who will stop at nothing to help me find what I want. And guess what! They don’t pretend to be an expert with a need to belittle you. They just go on a mutual quest with you to hunt for the item. (see what I did there?)

Smile when you dial. (A hack for phone calls)

People on the other end of the phone can differentiate between a smiling and non-smiling tone. Smiling raises you voice intonation to a level that elicits a sympathetic response. As the song lyrics say,

“When you are smiling, the whole world smiles with you.”

Leverage the Five Dials of Your Voice Dashboard

  1. Tone– the pitch/range
    A sentence that ends in a high tone is a question. Using this at the wrong time can cause doubt. But you can also create doubt when you want someone to question a decision.
    A sentence that ends flat is a statement.
    A sentence that ends on a low note is a command. Use this when you need to be persuasive.
    For a good laugh, watch Jerry Seinfeld’s take on voice tone.
  2. 2. Tempo– speed of your speech
    Be aware that the tempo of your speech properly conveys the content
  3. 3. Timber – the clarity of your voice (“did you eat yet” v. “jeetyet”)
    Pronounce words all the way.
  4. 4. Volume
  5. 5. Mute Button
    One strategically way to use the Mute Button is to pause at key moments to draw more interest. Another is to let the other person be the smartest person in the room and have the last word.

(Source: Kathy McAfee)

I will leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou.

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning”


Rick Burris

PS – I suggest you go back and read the messages from this week and see what you can put in practice today.


Shake a Leg

Shake a Leg

One morning in the Volunteer Team House at Orphanage Emanuel in Honduras, my friend Charlie got my boys out of bed by saying,

“Out of the sheets and into the streets!”

It has been my favorite morning idiom ever since. Before that my favorite was,

“Shake a leg!”

Of course, now they are old enough to get themselves up, but shake a leg is probably not the best life tip to give my boys when taken literally.

Leg shaking in the right company is fine when we have to wait for the bathroom and it’s also a good way to warm up at the football game, but it’s not advisable for a business setting.

While there are medical reasons why people shake their legs, it is generally views as a signed of anxiety or boredom. It can also be seen as an indication of dishonesty.

Tests conducted using middle managers as subjects who were instructed to lie, have shown that unconscious foot movements increase dramatically when a person is lying. While both men and women subjects could control their hands, and create fake facial expressions, they were unaware of what their feet were doing.

In a spirit of brevity, here are a few more reminders of how we can use the language of our legs and feet to create better connections whether standing or sitting.

While Standing

The feet show the direction we want to go. When listening to a speaker, we are generally more engaged when our feet are pointed towards the speaker. Look for this the next time you are at a social gathering. If you can spot a listener is whose head is turned toward a speaker but has their body facing towards another person, you will know who they prefer to be speaking with.

When you are standing, it is generally sends a better signal if your legs are uncrossed with your feet still. But too wide of a stance (beyond shoulder-width) in the Pelvic Display position doesn’t send approachable signals. You knew that, right?


When seated, knees together with ankles uncrossed and feet flat on the floor is generally good for both men and women, but crossing the legs appropriately can show that you are relaxed. Let the other person cross their legs first and mirror them if it is appropriate to your own attire.

At a meeting around a table, practice turning your body toward the speaker. Avoid turning away from the table and remember the knees point in the direction of your interest when seated.

Happy connecting!


Rick Burris


Use Your Head

Use Your Head

As I scour the internet collecting information on body language, I haven’t found a better introduction than this excerpt from

“It is safe to say that body language represents a very significant proportion of meaning that is conveyed and interpreted between people. Many body language experts and sources seem to agree that that between 50-80% of all human communications are non-verbal. So, while body language statistics vary according to situation, it is generally accepted that non-verbal communications are very important in how we understand each other (or fail to), especially in face-to-face and one-to-one communications, and most definitely when the communications involve an emotional or attitudinal element.
Body language is especially crucial when we meet someone for the first time. We form our opinions of someone we meet for the first time in just a few seconds, and this initial instinctual assessment is based far more on what we see and feel about the other person than on the words they speak. On many occasions, we form a strong view about a new person before they speak a single word.
Consequently, body language is very influential in forming impressions on first meeting someone. The effect happens both ways – to and from:
When we meet someone for the first time, their body language, on conscious and unconscious levels, largely determines our initial impression of them.
In turn when someone meets us for the first time, they form their initial impression of us largely from our body language and non-verbal signals.
And this two-way effect of body language continues throughout communications and relationships between people.
Body language is constantly being exchanged and interpreted between people, even though much of the time this is happening on an unconscious level.
Remember – while you are interpreting (consciously or unconsciously) the body language of other people, so other people are constantly interpreting yours.
The people with the most conscious awareness of, and capabilities to read, body language tend to have an advantage over those whose appreciation is limited largely to the unconscious.
You will shift your own awareness of body language from the unconscious into the conscious by learning about the subject, and then by practicing your reading of non-verbal communications in your dealings with others. Body language is more than body positions and movements. Body language is not just about how we hold and move our bodies.”

When it comes to how we hold and move our bodies, the head as the center of operation, is a key indicator of the meaning of communication.

The head can tell us how someone is agreeable and in rapport with us and how engaged, enthusiastic, and committed a listener is in what is being said.

Here are five important messages the head is giving.

The Nod
When we are engaged in a conversation with a person we like or want to build rapport with, we naturally mirror the other person’s behaviors. One way a speaker will check fir agreement is with an up and down head nod. When this happens, it is difficult not to nod back.

If we do not nod, we are communicating either

  • We didn’t get it.
  • We don’t agree.
  • We agree but we don’t really like them at the moment.
  • If we nod slowly, we are saying “I’m listening. Please continue.”
  • If we nod quickly, we are saying, “I’ve got it move on to the next point.”
  • A small nod with a smile is an encouraging and bonding signal.

The Doggie Tilt
Depending on the context, the head tilt can mean:

  • Continue speaking, I find this important.
  • It can be sympathetic. “Are you ok?”
  • A head tilt with a hand to the chin means I am evaluating what you said.
  • A head tilt with the head pulled back can show surprise.
  • A head tilt with a slight smile shows a playful engaged attitude.

Head Thrust / Head Retreat

  • Chin out is an aggressive/ attack pose.
  • Chin tucked back is a defensive/ retreat pose.

The Cut Off

This is quickly pulling your head to the side saying, “I don’t want to hear any more.”

The Head Shake
Most of the time, shaking your head from side-to-side means ‘No’. But it can also convey micro-messages depending on the rhythm and speed.


  • A fast and rhythmic head shaking definitely says – “no, I disagree, this is not true.”
  • A slow and irregular turning of the head usually signals misunderstanding. Something didn’t get through quite right.
  • Slow and rhythmic head shaking can also signal disbelief. We cannot accept what we just heard.

As I said yesterday, you already know these things. I am just bringing them to your conscious mind by sharing them here and now you (and I) can be intentional about using these head movements for better communication and connection.

Why not try a friendly experiment today? Go make someone’s day by purposefully using a head movement that shows them you regard them highly. Perhaps a head tilt with a slight nod and a smile.


Rick Burris

PS – Here is a little secret. While you are making someone else’s day, you are practicing higher emotional intelligence, because now you are more aware that you have a menu of choices from which to select the response that not only best suits the situation, but demonstrates your capacity to create an outcome.


Own Your Face

Own Your Face

This week I will be sharing a series of short emails on body language. I’ve been self-educating on the topic and trying to be more mindful of how I “carry” myself, especially since I have had ample opportunities for interacting with people I don’t yet know. I’m not promising to offer anything Earth-shattering, but I know you will find the reminders as interesting as I have.

There is a plethora of information out there (which makes me happy because I get a little geeked out on this stuff), but I will share just a few bits each day that are perhaps a little less obvious and quickly applied for more effective communication.

Today, The Face.

First this from on being perceived as trustworthy.

“Hehman et al. (2015) found that the most trustworthy face is one where we have a slight smile, with the corners of the mouth turned up, and with eyebrows slightly raised. This shows us as being confident and friendly but without being anxious as to whether others like us in return (hence making us more desirable as a friend).”

In a very entertaining TEDTalk, Mark Bowden of TruthPlane explains that we have seven seconds to make a first impression and it is best if your smile forms slowly over a three-second period and is held for at least three seconds accompanied by the eyes squinted and the eyebrows raised. He also says that a smile without the eyes and eyebrows included is seen as insincere and untrustworthy.

For one more hint, when we are showing sympathy we hold our eyes in an extended gaze with our eyebrows slightly pulled together in middle or downwards at edges and our mouth turned down at corners with our head tilted to side.

Like I said, you know these things already but when we own our face we can consciously choose the expression that best helps us make connections with others.

(and with a sincere smile)

Rick Burris

PS – Need a boost of inspiration? Go HERE.

The Hawthorne Effect

The Hawthorne Effect

How many times have you heard some derivative of the following sentence?

“This call may be recorded for quality assurance.”

This is done in order to ensure the proper execution and conduct of interviews.
Now that calls can be digitized, compressed, and stored on a hard drive, it can even be used to search for anger in callers’ or agents’ voices by examining the pitch, speed, and other criteria, much as a lie detector would. (source: Fast Company)

For agents, there may be another effect that each of being monitored that is an effect to which each of us are susceptible – The Hawthorne Effect. Here is how Wikipedia sums it up.

The Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect) is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed. The original research at the Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois, on lighting changes and work structure changes such as working hours and break times was originally interpreted by Elton Mayo and others to mean that paying attention to overall worker needs would improve productivity. Later interpretations such as that done by Landsberger suggested that the novelty of being research subjects and the increased attention from such could lead to temporary increases in workers’ productivity. This interpretation was dubbed “the Hawthorne effect”.

While other interpretations and criticisms of this effect have been made, there is no doubt our performance tends to improve, even if only temporarily, when we know we are being watched, and so does that of those we supervise.

Our challenge, with regards to the Hawthorne Effect is two-fold. First, how can we be creative and respectful with the level of observation and accountability we provide (and subject ourselves to). Secondly, our challenge is to remember that character is what we do when no one other than our Real Boss is watching.


Rick Burris


Arrival Syndrome

Arrival Syndrome

I know that I am not alone in saying that driving through Atlanta, Georgia, USA can be a real pain in the backside. But living two hours away, means that mapping software frequently routes you through Atlanta when traveling. Such was the case in July 2017. As our country prepared for celebrations if independence, my family and I made our way back from Northeast Alabama. Sure enough, the map suggested driving through Atlanta or swinging way to the North and going through Knoxville, Tennessee. Any suggestions offered meant hours of time on major interstate highways.

Since we had avoided Atlanta traffic on the way to Alabama, we knew there were other ways around. Minus having a paper map (remember those), finding the route meant that we had to get around the mapping software’s default response and make it work for us. By plotting a series of shorter destinations, we were rewarded with less traffic and a more scenic and pleasant drive. Except for the fact that our last hour of driving was spent in a heavy downpour, we arrived at the house only a few minutes later than the original ETA shown when the route through Atlanta was suggested.

Because Kate and I have spent our entire married life living away from family, we have spent hundreds of hours on major interstates. I was thinking last night of all the trips we have taken through Atlanta without any awareness of the interesting places we drove through on this trip.

I’m not suggesting driving on major interstates is a moral issue. Mapping software is an excellent tool and it has gotten even better over the years. But the way we often use it is a great example of our tendency to approach life without independent thinking. We are figuratively and literally on auto pilot and following the masses. It is certainly no fault of the mapping software which is only giving the output the masses want. We look at the suggested routes and decide they are the only ones that exist. One is five minutes shorter than the other so we pick that one and mindlessly drive. In so doing we have trained ourselves to believe that the only way to drive to our destination on a long trip is to go from major highway to major highway. We may be sacrificing peace of mind and perhaps our safety, but we will arrive 20 minutes faster.

We employ the same lack of independent thought in other areas of life and our results show it. Again, this is not a statement of self-judgement but rather of self-awareness. It is worth asking ourselves if we apply any independent thought to our approach to education, to our health, wellness and medical choices, the way we bank and handle money, etc..
In his book Becoming Your Own Banker, R. Nelson Nash offers a great explanation for one of the reasons we fail to think independently. – Arrival Syndrome

“Now we turn our attention to probably the most devastating matter we have examined thus far. I call it the ‘Arrival Syndrome’. This phenomenon probably limits the achievements of mankind more than anything else. When this “thing” infects us, we stop growing and stop learning. We ROT! We turn off or tune out the ability to receive inspiration – because we already know all there is to know”

Is there any way in which the Arrival Syndrome describes you, any way you have become too comfortable in habits that are not serving you? Where is that small voice of the independently-minded Fighter still calling out in you and saying,

“I’m still here!”


Rick Burris


The Big 6

The Big 6

How much bandwidth do you have today?

We all have seasons of feeling overwhelmed and overloaded with responsibility. I remember the first time I heard a co-worker refer to that as running out of bandwidth. It was one of those sayings that instantly made its way into my vocabulary.

We have an allotment of time and energy available to us each day. When we are operating with a low level of bandwidth, it is easy to avoid important things like our finances, calls or emails we need to return, getting a workout in, confronting an issue we know will be difficult. But, what we avoid today takes up a higher level of bandwidth tomorrow. Sound familiar? Here is a hack for that. Try the Big 6 (and the bonus).

Pareto Principle
First, understand the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle was suggested by management consultant, Joseph M Juran and named for Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. The principle, also called the 80/20 rule, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the outcomes come from 20% of the actions. This suggests that in business 80% of activity is not revenue-producing. It is just busy work, and much of it is a complete waste of time. Understanding the Pareto Principle is grasping that all activity is not created equally. The key is to identify those actions that yield the greatest return and do those first.

The Big 6
The Big 6 hack involves taking a minute or two each day before you launch headlong into a flurry of activity and mentally selecting the top six tasks you need do get done. Now take your list of six and prioritize them in order of what will get you the best return. Return means revenue, and it also means knocking out the difficult tasks that give you more freedom and peace of mind. The act of writing your list down is helpful in two ways. Writing something (by hand) causes your mind to think differently; and by writing something down it increases your commitment to it. Perhaps try a 3×5 card that stays in front of you. At the end of today, evaluate your list and build tomorrow’s list.

Now here is your bonus hack as a reminder. Use a text speaking tool (like Siri) to absorb emails/articles more quickly and save time. Personally, I cannot stand to have my inbox cluttered with unread emails. All of us get plenty of emails that are of little to no value, but we can make the mistake of avoid important emails if we already feel overwhelmed. If I feel rushed or I am on the go, I use this to keep up. I subscribe to several email lists. Some of those authors are prolific writers and their emails are not short. When I subscribed to their list, I had an intention for the benefit I expected to receive, if I don’t read what they write, I can’t blame the author. I read these emails or listen to them as a commitment to my own growth.


Rick Burris



Four Circles of Evil

Four Circles of Evil

For 12 weeks, I “co-led” a Sunday school class with Steve Whigham. I put co-led in quotes since Steve did 95% of the work and presenting. The class was entitled Man’s Chief End which comes from the Westminster Catechism stating that man’s chief end is to love God and enjoy Him always.

Each week had its own topic with the final week being on natural evil, meaning evil from without rather than that which proceeds from people. Natural evils are those seemingly random events which we would likely categorize as bad things happening to good people. Cancer would be a simple example, as would any sickness including plagues. It also may be a tornado, an earthquake or a tsunami – natural disasters that wipes out the innocents. How do we make sense of these things?

Maybe the right answer is that some things do not make sense, at least they are not simple to explain. Steve, who is the award-winning author of Eclipse of Faith and Throw Open the Floodgates is a masterful researcher and presenter. If anyone could offer helpful explanation for natural evils, he could, and did so during yesterday’s class. I am not sure I would do justice were I to attempt to repeat the full content of what was shared, nor is that the intention of this message. However, I would like to offer a few thoughts as a reflection of what was shared that perhaps, you will find relevant as a leader of your life.

I have always wondered about my own response to setbacks, maladies, unforeseen negative occurrences, unexpected losses, disasters, and natural evils. Steve was sharing about Charles Darwin who lost his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Anne, to typhoid fever in 1851 and subsequently lost his faith. As he spoke about Darwin, I also remembered Horatio Spafford who lost his four-year-old son to scarlet fever in 1871, then lost his four daughters two years later in a shipwreck and subsequently penned the hymn, It is Well With My Soul. Both suffered the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child(ren). But their responses were drastically different.

It causes me to question,

“Would I be like Darwin or like Spafford?”

When tragedy strikes, when loss occurs, when life goes the opposite of what I expect, if I suffered a major financial loss, or my health were to fail, which would I be?

The worst thing I could do is pretend natural evil does not exist or that my life is somehow magically insulated from it. You and I know better. Don’t we, Friend?

Learning about natural evil yesterday, I thought of a quote I saw at the National Holocaust Memorial in Washington D.C. It was from Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Of course, Niemöller was talking about the specific evil that emerged from within people. But, I had these thoughts and word pictures about natural evil that I will share. It seems to me that we experience four circles of natural evil. They all come with one central question.

“Is God good?”

But, each circle requires (or allows for) a different response. I put this together to show what I was thinking, see if it makes sense.

The idea being that natural evil has an encroaching manner similar to an approaching storm whose arrival is eminent. When natural evil hits the distant world, like the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, I might experience compassion but I can dismiss it. My dismissal does not dictate its severity or tragic effect on those in that “distant world”, I simply may feel no compulsion for a tangible response.

When natural evil reaches my community, I need theology, as a person of faith, to wrestle with its impact. When it gets to my neighborhood, perhaps the couple down the street who miscarried their second pregnancy, or the gentleman from church who lost his wife to cancer, it interrupts my thinking and I need logic. But when it hits my home and family, like my sister who can’t win for losing in the area of health and has suffered, MS, Parkinson’s Disease, years of sleepless nights as a side effect from medication and recently an excruciatingly painful hip replacement surgery, I can’t dismiss it. Theology becomes ineffective. Logic doesn’t soothe. I need love. She needs love. Why would I ever try to ease the pain of someone who lost a child with a theological platitude? I might as well spit right into the wind.

If, like Horatio (and his wife Anna), we are going to transcend the encroaching Darkness and keep moving forward as people who still believe in the Light, we must be prepared. We need to be prepared theologically. We need to be prepared intellectually. We need to be prepared emotionally. Fear doesn’t help, it only makes us run away or freeze. I will argue, that transcendent preparation must happen spiritually.

We need the view from the top of the mountain to know evil is on its way.

It reminds me of when I was a Senior in high school. I was at my friend, Brad Hugg’s house. It was just the two of us at home when the tornado sirens began to sound. When you grow up on the plains of Kansas, you get accustomed to seeing storms coming from far off. At the first sound of the sirens, we followed the prescribed method of heading to his basement. After a few minutes, we could no longer bear knowing danger was approaching that we could not see. We left the basement and climbed on top of his roof. (We were 18. Our brains weren’t fully developed.) From the rooftop, we could see the debris fly as the funnel cloud touched down on the West side of our town. What happened next has NOTHING to do with this message. I share it because it was so bizarre. Before reaching the city limits, the tornado went back up into the clouds in a horizontal fashion. The storm moved from West to East over the town before the funnel dropped down on the East side of town damaging only a few barns.

Like climbing on the roof to see the coming storm, the Spirit helps us go up the mountain to prepare for the encroaching Darkness. I suspect it is what prompted the psalms writer to say,

“Ye, though I walk through the valley in the Shadow of Death, I will fear no Evil, for You are with me…”

If we have ears to listen, the Spirit prepares us for what may come relationally, in our business, in our health, etc. and we can emerge as those who share the Light with others.

The privilege of the Believer is in knowing that Darkness has an expiration date and only the Light is eternal.

Warmly (and hopefully Brightly),


Rick Burris



Twinkies or Pound Cake

Twinkies or Pound Cake

“The kettle’s on the boil and we’re so easily called away.”


Hello Friend,

I can still see Buford Makenzie “Chief Mac” sitting on the stool in the front of the room, all 6 foot 3 inches of him with his forearm crutches leaning against the stiff legs of his polyester pants and his custom-made black orthopedic shoes with the four-inch sole to compensate for his short-left leg. He was a hulking man. Even nearing 80, you knew his “disability” had belied his strength his entire life and his power wasn’t fading yet. It is true he had certain catch phrases he said over and over again, but so what! So does John Maxwell and Les Brown and every other guru out there. I am sure my kids think I do too.

Chief Mac would sit up there with his big hands raised to shoulder height and proclaim,

“It’s a mystery how all the parts of camp (therapeutic camps for troubled boys/girls) came together. It’s like a pound cake. If you take the parts of the pound cake separately, the flour, the raw eggs, the sugar, it wouldn’t taste very good and it wouldn’t be a pound cake. But somehow, when you mix them all together, and you bake it just right, you get something wonderful.

He was right. For eight years, it was my privilege to see the transformative power of that pound cake. I remember the first time I learned about the stages of group development during a Connecting and Therapeutic Crisis Intervention training.


Stage One – Forming

Stage Two – Storming

Stage Three – Norming

Stage Four – Performing

Stage Five – Transforming

People from other intervention programs would share that all they ever saw were the forming and storming phases in their facilities. They worked in places where people were looking for a quick fix. They were the kind of places where people send their kids off to get well – that was until the insurance coverage ran out and it was back home or on to the next place. No family dynamics were addressed. No issues of the heart were dealt with. No lasting change. Just a vicious and wasteful cycle and the system is designed for its perpetuity. They are serving up Twinkies when people could be enjoying homemade pound cake.

By contrast, therapeutic camping, which faces eminent threat of forced institutionalization from all the well-educated idiots, works with kids for indefinite periods of time while also working with the whole family. They don’t ask,

“How long will it take?”

They ask,

“How far can we (and should we) go?”

We all have to decide. Do we want the pound cake or would we rather gorge ourselves on the endlessly unsatisfying Twinkies?

The Twinkies of personal growth look like a quick fix. They are a fast and short-lived wow. The pound cake brings all of the parts together in a way that causes each to make the other more potent. The pound cake processes of growth are a slow “Wow!” but they last because they deal with your heart and soul.

Guess which way I designed the Life Leaders GPS? Rhetorical question, of course.
I know it is a pound cake in a world of people looking for their next Twinkie fix. People who are still happily fooling themselves with messages like.

“This is just how I am…”

“I don’t have time for that.”

“I can’t afford it.”

But once you’ve tried homemade pound cake you are ruined for Twinkies. You finally pick up the box and read what’s REALLY in it. No Thanks!

Okay perhaps you are thinking,

“Hey Rick! A pound cake isn’t health food.”

Fair enough. But what I am describing is a process in which one step builds upon the next. It deals with both sides of your brain for the purposes of greater life success. It helps you understand yourself and your true potential at a level that doesn’t happen with a mere event or even a seminar. If you decided you were going to invest $10,000 and go buy all the personal growth and leadership books you could afford, it wouldn’t add the same value to your life, because this tool empowers your feet to hit the streets with better ways of thinking, and tools to develop new habits and routines that serve you best, and it has structures built in to make them stick.

It might be a slow wow. It might not blow you away right out of the gate and make you ready to shout about it from the rooftops. But, wait for it. When you start realizing you have new power to recognize the thinking and patterns that sabotage your success and then you make a better choice, and then another, and another…and wait a minute! All of a sudden, you are going down new roads. You are meeting new people. You are reacting less and responding more in a way that is in harmony with what helps you lay your head on the pillow with peace at night. That’s the pound cake I am talking about.
I’ve given you the first part of the recipe – a $99 retail value – for free.

Go for the whole pound cake. Click HERE.

Warmly (as warm as the kitchen with the oven door open and the cakes on the cooling racks),

Rick Burris


Get on the Bus

Get on the Bus

The past year has been a dry one in our neck of the woods but one Sunday the rain started and it didn’t let up as I wrote this on a Monday morning. Along with the downpour came substantial winds. The saturated ground combined with the winds to topple a tree onto the power lines just a few blocks from our house. This put the power out from around 7PM to 5AM.

Out came the candles and a cribbage game by candlelight ensued. I wasn’t skunked but lost miserably. This was followed by a family reading session by headlamp. I took advantage of the opportunity to read a book my friend, Daren, loaned me several months ago. You may have already read the book. It was easily finished in one night. Not sure why I waited so long to get to it but I was thankful I did.

The book is the Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. It follows the leadership transformation of the main character, George. George is an over-stressed businessman whose car breaks down on a Monday morning. With no other options, he makes a mile-long trek to a bus stop where he gets on board Bus #11. This begins a two-week routine in which George learns the 10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life from bus driver and energy guru, Joy.

It is a cleverly written and easily followed story which unfolds the 10 Rules one day at a time and throws in a handful of poignant teaching points and factoids. The book culminates with an 11-Step Energy Bus Action Plan that was uncannily familiar.

My favorite rule was Rule #8 – Love Your Passengers.

1. Make time for them.
a. Be engaged in the moment.
b. Don’t be thinking about 10 things you have to do that day or 10 other people you need to meet with.
c. Really be with that person and focus your energy on them. They will feel the difference.
2. Listen to them.
a. Listen with your heart and care about what they have to say.
b. Empathy is the key.
3. Recognize them.
a. Honor them for who they are and what they feel and do.
b. Feed the positive dog inside them and watch it grow.
4. Serve them.
a. The higher you get in an organization, the more it is your duty to serve the people below you rather than having the people below serve you.
b. The key is to serve their growth, their future, their career, and their spirits so they enjoy work, life and being on your bus.
c. The more you serve their growth, the more they will help you grow.
5. Bring out the best in them.
a. If you want to love your team, help them do what they do best. It’s that simple.

My favorite factoid came following this excerpt.

Lead with heart. Get in touch with the real, positive and powerful you. Lead with positive, contagious leadership.

The heart is your power center. It is where positive contagious leadership comes from, and the more open, powerful, and positive it is the more powerful you are.

The heart acts as an emotional conductor and radiates how you are feeling to every cell in your body via the heart’s electromagnetic field; this energy field can be detected up to 5 to 10 feet away.

The heart’s electromagnetic field is 5,000 times more powerful than the brain.

I can only imagine what it took, in the wind and incessant rain, for the linemen to restore energy to our neighborhood. I am grateful to them. I am also grateful that a power outage gave way to an empowerment of my character via the Energy Bus book. It was a great reminder never to be too busy to love my passengers.


Rick Burris


Slow Down to Catch Up – 10 Ways

Slow Down to Catch Up – 10 Ways

My Aikido lead instructor, Shihan Beckham, always begins class with words of wisdom. They are applicable to each practice and they are applicable to life outside the dojo. The word for last night was “adagio”. We did an hour and forty-five minutes of one class adagio. We slowed everything down to be certain we were getting the basics correct. As Mr. Beckham was explaining our approach to the class, I thought how ironic, but precisely true, that sometimes we need to slow down to catch up.

I like that scene in the Matrix where NEO suddenly realizes he can see everything in slow motion. It changes everything. His life moves instantly from the effect end to the cause end. In slow motion, he sees everything coming and blocks the nonsense away almost with a yawn. He then moves from the receiving end of blows to the giving end and his strikes are much more precise and effective. When we are not intentional, we tend to be more like the pre-slow-motion NEO. Confused, hapless and taking a lot more blows than we are giving. We run behind and get overwhelmed. It is easy to feel like life is something happening TO US when we move too fast. What we fail to grasp is that we are predominately creating this dynamic by lack of thinking INTO our actions.

Here are some simple ways we can slow things down and build margins in our day to stay caught up. (Before I begin, let me say parenthetically that I do recognize that there are periods of our life where much of our time IS dictated by someone else’s demands or needs. If you suspect you are in one of those periods, keep reading, there is value here for you.)

10 (11) Ways to Slow Down to Catch Up

1. Put God First. Try asking God for help with the important basics. Meditative prayer naturally and supernaturally puts you in an intentional state of mind.         It causes you to think differently than your “on-the-go” default. Then your “on-the-go” prayers become reminders to stay on track. Have you ever thought        about prayer being mostly about reminding yourself what is important? I am not saying God is inactive. I am saying it is possible that prayers are asking          God to do something but also lining ourselves up with what we already think he wants.

  1. Prioritize Your Life. Understanding your life purpose is important. All too often we are busy being busy and we lose our focus on why we do certain activities. Not all activity is of equal value. We have to continually check ourselves to be sure we are keeping the main thing the main thing. If our desires don’t match what we know our priorities ought to be, we can drift into doing mostly what we want and lose the time we should have spent on other priorities. This is where the spiral begins that makes us feel like we are chasing life to get caught up.
  2. Get Rid of Clutter.Your car, your kitchen, your living room, your bedroom, your inbox, your office/desk, your mind. Any clutter there? Are you sure? I have met a few people who do operate at high levels with clutter, but my experience has been that most of the people I have met (including myself too often) who coexist with clutter, are behind. I am not talking about intelligence or potential. I am talking about effectiveness.
  3. Stop Unnecessary Time Wasters. We live in a world that begs our brains to be overly entertained and our own biology (hormones) works against us when it comes to “vegging” out and compulsively wasting time with electronic devices and social media. We all know better. We just need to do tangible steps to do better. What can you do to minimize time-wasting distractions that get your behind?
  4. Drive Smarter. Do you commute? Find something that contributes to your personal development during your daily commute. HINT: You are not likely to find it on the radio.
  5. Schedule Margins. Sometimes we forget that we are at the helm of our calendars. Even if a large portion of our schedule is fixed by forces outside of our control, we can look for spaces to create buffers.
  6. Do the Most Necessary Work First. I don’t know about you, but I am extremely geared towards task completion. It serves me well much of the time but my challenge is to stop working on a certain project, let it wait, and get going on the thing that keeps the lights on in my house.
  7. Don’t Say Yes to Everything. Someone is reading this and shaking their head. Your time is your life. YES! You can say, “NO!” and the Earth will stay in its orbit.
  8. Schedule Down Time. I have a confession to make. I take a power nap almost every afternoon. It happens after I pick up my youngest son from school. We drive to a parking area and wait for my older son to get out of school. I have often wondered if other parents in the same parking area look over and think,“What a loser!”I would be okay with that because what they don’t know is that I am up at 4am every morning (3am today) working. I have intentionally structured my days to maximize my time with my boys and I have zero guilt that 15-20 minutes of that time is me snoring in the car seat next to my son. That time is paid for and contributes to my overall health.
  9. Evaluate Your Schedule Often. Plans should not be implemented and then ignored. Calibrate often to stay aware of your goals.

#11 BONUS: Take 1:50 minutes and watch THIS VIDEO. It will leave you feeling groovy, especially watching Art Garfunkle’s face.

One of the primary benefits of the Life Leaders GPS is the opportunity it offers to push the pause button on life and be sure the life you are living is the one you want, the one you really want. There is one lesson in particular designed to help you master today’s topic – Take Your Brain Back. This message skips the rock across the top of that pond. We are co-creating our lives every day. Let’s make the most of it.


Rick Burris


Where Are You Pitching Your Tent

Where Are You Pitching Your Tent

Imagine if, this morning, you learned that for the next 30 days, sleeping indoors would not be an option available to you – anywhere. Do you own a tent?

Well, in this scenario you do. No place to sleep inside. However, you could take your tent to sleep outside in one of the following options.

You can pitch your tent in a traffic jam.

Your next option would be a parking lot.
You could take your tent to a scenic overlook.
Or, if you preferred, you could place your tent on a nature trail.

Any of these options sound appealing to you?
Hold on. Before you answer, remember, you’ve got 30 days with your tent. Don’t get hasty. You have three other choices.

You could set your tent up in the wilderness.
You could also pitch it on a mountaintop.

There would also be one final option available.

Because, I didn’t mention something about this 30-day scenario. Everyone that you know, and everyone that you meet, would also have the same 30 days of outdoor sleeping.
Therefore, your final option is to serve as a Sherpa Guide for others and help them select a spot for their tent. If you were a Sherpa Guide, it is safe to assume the one location to which you would be leading others.

Stick with the scenario. Look again at your options for the next 30 days of tent camping.

The Traffic Jam
The Parking Lot
The Scenic Overlook
The Nature Trail
The Wilderness
The Mountaintop
The Sherpa Guide

Where do you see yourself pitching your tent? 

What might be the benefits and drawbacks of each choice?

Let’s add a new wrinkle to the scenario and see if you change your mind about where your tent goes. Let’s say there was a reward program and, along with any other benefits that came with the location you choose, you get paid at the end of the 30 days based on your choice. Maybe something like this.

The Traffic Jam = $100/day
The Parking Lot = $200/day
The Scenic Overlook = $400/day
The Nature Trail = $800/day
The Wilderness = $1,600/day
The Mountaintop = $3,200/day
The Sherpa Guide = $6,400/day

Now how would you choose?

Would it surprise you to learn that out of 100 people,

40 would take the Traffic Jam
25 would take the Parking Lot
15 would take the Scenic Overlook
10 would take the Nature Trail
6 would take the Wilderness
3 would take the Mountaintop and only
1 would take the Sherpa Guide?

Of course, I am presenting a fictitious scenario. But the concerning part of the metaphor is that it mirrors reality quite closely. The major difference being that some have 30 days, some have 21 days, others 10 days and some only 3 days and none know how many days they have.

Through this exercise, I have introduced you to the 7 Levels of Life Leadership. In any given day, we may be visiting each of the 7 levels, but the place we choose to pitch our tent has a great deal to do with the results we get in this life and the next. It’s time you learned more about the 7 Levels. The course is free but avoiding it could be costly.

Claim your FREE access today.


Rick Burris

PS – Instructions for registering for the course were in yesterday’s email.


Law of the Lid

Law of the Lid

I have a leadership coaching exercise for you to ponder this weekend. It is based around Law #1 – The Law of the Lid which states that your leadership determines your effectiveness. As you have noticed, I don’t typically use graphics in my emails, but I will make an exception today with the graphics below.

Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his/her potential. As the lid of a leader (or his/her influence) increases effectiveness increases exponentially through other people’s performance. If you were to measure your level of effectiveness, you would find its ceiling to exist at a height equivalent to the height of your leadership level.


Consider your own motivation to be effective.

How effective are you? 

How effective do you want to be? 

Do the self-test below on the 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader and determine your effectiveness score as you currently see it. You can get a free PDF of the exercise HERE.

Now dig deeper. Print the PDF and give it as a handout to the people you influence (kids, spouse, co-workers, members of a group you belong to), and ask them to complete it related to your leadership. One last question to consider.

What thoughts does that idea stir in you?

Examine those thoughts honestly and without judgment and be daring.




Rick Burris


I’m Going to Have Fun with This

I’m Going to Have Fun with This

The last thing my son, Jonah, said as I looked at him in the rearview mirror was,

“I am going to have fun with this.”

Then he shut the back hatch and walked into school sporting his black cape, white gloves and face half-painted white (a clever way to get around the no mask rule for Costume Day).

Schools in the United States have a couple of weeks each year of Spirit Week. These fundraising weeks typically have a theme for each day. Whether during one of these theme days, or some other occasion, a Costume Day at a school is a fairly common experience and may not seem like fodder for a discussion on leadership. Perhaps, you will see it as my excuse to brag about my son. So be it.

The thing I admired about Jonah’s approach to the day was his initiative and intentionality. It wasn’t on a grand scale but sometimes it is the small choices we make that determine the difference between regret and fond memories. As soon as Jonah heard the day was coming, he was asking me if he could get on Amazon to search for a Phantom of the Opera cape. He had his backup plan with the Jedi costume his mom helped him make a couple of years ago in case his package didn’t arrive on time and he got the face paint picked out in case it did.

You have to know Jonah to know why his phrase struck me. Jonah is my time keeper. He cannot stand to be late. He would make friends with a telephone pole if there wasn’t another person around to meet but he is not big on drawing attention to himself. He is all business when he gets dropped off at school. Micah and I kid him because he is silent when he gets out of the car most days. Grab the backpack and viola and get in the school quickly.

The takeaway for me was how he said,

“I’m going to have fun with this.” Not “This is going to be fun.”

He wasn’t passively showing up for the day and waiting for someone else to make it fun, or to be blamed if it was not. He made his mind up as soon as he heard the day was coming that he would make the day fun. I thought of something Charles Swindoll said when talking about the importance of attitude.

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”

At 3pm, he was still in the cape and most of the face paint had survived the day. We had a good discussion about the importance of jumping in and participating. About a third of the students showed up in costume. For the rest, it was just another day that will blend in to the next. The cape is now hanging next to the Jedi robe as part of the growing costume wardrobe, and for Jonah, the day will be a highlight in his memory because he made it that way intentionally.

Make today a great day.


Rick Burris




Imagine this.

You have a bank account. Every day $86,400 gets deposited. No balance is carried over from day to day. No cash balance is allowed. Every evening cancels whatever part of the money you have failed to use during the day.
What would you do? Draw out every cent of course!
Well, each one of us has such a bank. It is called TIME.
Every morning it credits you 86,400 seconds.
Every night it writes off as a loss whatever of this you have failed to invest for a good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the records of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against “tomorrow”. You must live in the present on today’s deposits.
Invest it to get the utmost in health, happiness, and success. The clock is running. Make the most of today.
“Time is your life. When you waste your time, you waste your life.” – Rick Grubbs.
It is a clever trick to think that time and life are separate things. If we can be convinced of this, we can mistakenly underestimate the value of time. If you do not see time as your life, it will be easy to waste a minute of it.
One day you wake up as an old man or an old woman, looking back on life frustrated. “Where did the time go?” “What happened to all of those things you wanted to do as a young person?” This is what happens when you fail to realize that when you waste your time you really are wasting your life. A wasted life is simply the accumulation of a lot of wasted time.
To redeem the time is to rescue it from going to waste. The starting point for redeeming the time is to realize that time is your life and it is impossible to waste time without also wasting your life. Since nobody wants to wake up with the tragedy of a wasted life behind them.
Here are six reasons it is so important to redeem the time to think about and act upon.
1. Time is limited.
2. Death is certain.
3. Our use of time brings eternal consequences.
4. Time is not recoverable.
5. Time is our most valuable earthly possession.
6. We must give an account for how we spend our time.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7
Sow worthwhile seeds. Have you been putting something off you know needs your time? Make that a priority today.Warmly,

Rick Burris



Is music important to you? Checkout this excerpt from Dr. Daniel G Amen’s email.


Science has shown that your brain loves music. Your brain actually lights up like the night sky on the 4th of July when you listen to music. 

It is one of the easiest activities that you can do to stimulate every part of the brain. 

Research has shown that music can improve sleep, enhance mood, foster learning, help manage stress, and strengthen memory. It’s even been shown to reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and even physical pain.

From babies in the womb to seniors, music has powerful benefits for everyone.

  • Mozart improves the intellectual and creative development of children from the very youngest of ages, according to a study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.
  • Music can even help dementia patients recall memories and emotions, according to a study by Music and Memory.


I am curious what playlist you are into right now. As I have shared before, I have never played an instrument. Growing up, I didn’t see music as part of my identity, I was more of a follower about my music choices, but occasionally I was selective about using music for motivation. Just like you though, I can hear a certain song and I am instantly transported back to certain moments of my life.

So, what are you into these days?

For the past year and a half, I’ve been using music as a thinking and meditation partner every day. Here is what my playlist has been.

For several months, I was WAY into Adele. I had a radio station app and found a station out of Stockholm that only plays Adele songs. My kids made me give it up when I started responding to them in Swedish.

The above excerpt was a set up for purchasing Brain Warrior’s Way by Barry Goldstein on iTunes. I went for it. There are 10 songs which I have worn out.

My typical routine is to listen to meditation music in the morning. Sometimes it is Christian meditation, although I have to navigate around the ones that read scripture during the music because it makes it difficult to concentrate on writing. I have listened to tons of Zen meditation music in the mornings. For the past several weeks I have been into Indian and Native American flute music. (Listening to THIS right now.)

Having teenagers is a great excuse for keeping up with the popular music of the day. They help me keep all of the bands straight.

In the afternoons, I switch to what I will call Epic music. Think of the background music from the most epic scenes of an action movie. You should try it out when you are doing a mundane task like grocery shopping. Put your earbuds in and quietly smile. No one else has to know you are being filmed for an action movie scene. Who knew finding rice and beans could be so exciting?

It’s great to be a music nerd. The immense variety of music reminds me of the power of imagination and creativity. Trying out new music is a simple way to practice choosing new thoughts for different results in life.

Let me know what play list you have going.




Rick Burris


Occupy the Territory

Occupy the Territory

This week we have been looking at Automatic Negative Thoughts (A.N.T.s). You can go back to the list in Monday’s email, but keep in mind that the point of identifying ANTS is to be an ANTeater by talking back to your negative thoughts. This is a practice of challenging your thinking. It is distrusting our negative thoughts as the definers of our reality. Let’s quickly look at another element of ANTeating.

It is written, that the mouth speaks from what fills the heart. Is it any wonder then, when we dwell on negative thoughts, that our conversations will also be habitually negative? Our Automatic Negative Thoughts becomes our Automatic Negative Speech. There is certainly a time and place for sharing our burdens with one another, but we don’t want to be that friend who overshares – know what I mean?

This morning I was re-reading part of Dr. Joseph Umidi’s book Transformational Intelligence: Creating Cultures of Honor at Home and at Work. One section describes “focused attraction”. Simply put it is attracting who we are. Here is the excerpt that was convicting to me.

“We become like a magnet and a filter. In other words, we filter out those who don’t have time or interest, but we attract like a magnet those who are at the same place, just behind us, or just ahead of us and will enable us to advance on our mountain and steadily climb. Not just one step forward and two steps back, but to be able to occupy the ground we cover, to be able to hold the territory we gain, to be able to get a secure footing and enjoy the view.”

I was convicted because I have given WAY too much energy to those who don’t have time or interest and I have overused the phrase “one step up and two steps back.” Think about the sentences from Dr. Umidi in terms of the content of your daily interactions with others. What habitual narrative of your circumstances do you need to drop and what territory do you already occupy that you need to celebrate?

Let’s do this action step. Pick 5 amazing aspects of our life and share those repeatedly for the next 48 hours. Tell me how it goes.



Rick Burris




Have you ever paddled a canoe? Ever tipped one over? In a river? The first summer Kate and I were married, I was the adventure trip director at the YMCA camp where we met. I led three trips that summer, one to Colorado for backpacking and whitewater rafting, another to Minnesota, and one river canoe trip on the Current River in Missouri.

That canoe trip began as one of the most frustrating trips I have ever led but it ended well. There is a sad fact for any business that leads experience-based programming. You can send as little or as much information as you believe necessary to help participants prepare, but the vast majority of it goes unread. The irony is that parents want their kids to have an experience so they can come back home more responsible while they are demonstrating their own irresponsibility. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of very responsible parents and children out there. Unfortunately, this irresponsibility tends to punish the prepared because they have to suffer through the ignorance of the unprepared. Each trip has its own dynamic based on the chemistry of the participants, I think on this one, everyone expected to hop out of a minivan and into a canoe while someone else loaded their gear and cooked their supper. The kids were terrible listeners. I quit counting how many times I had to repeat simple instructions. Packing the vans and was a nightmare. I finally sent everyone to bed around midnight and finished loading the gear and food myself.

After making the 10-hour-drive to the river, things did not get much better. Thankfully the canoe rental company had aluminum canoes waiting at the launching spot. With persistence, and precious little help from the campers, we got the canoes loaded with all of the gear tied down. We must have been no more than 30 minutes into floating when the first canoe tipped over and it was a doozie.

I have had canoes tip over in much more precarious locations, even some get tangled up in low-hanging branches with snakes dropping in the water right next to the canoe. Some have gotten swept under to root wads. Once we even temporarily lost a boat that sank and got pinned under a submerged tree. That was when the river was way up. About a week later, when the river went down, we found the canoe wedged under the tree.

This one was simple. It was just beyond a low-water crossing. The water wasn’t more than four feet deep. The banks were clear and the only tree nearby, probably a 75-year-old sycamore, had fallen across the river sometime before. Someone had topped it off about 10 feet from the roots leaving only the trunk jutting out and ample room on the right to paddle around the tree. However, despite plenty of warning and instruction from a fellow staff member, the pair in the canoe managed to ram their boat directly into the trunk. I paddled from behind just in time to see the canoe turn sideways so that it was parallel to the current being pushed against the tree. The two had the normal reaction (not the correct one). They leaned their bodies upstream away from the tree. It took about a half second for the gunnel to catch the oncoming water. The boat flipped over and swept passengers and gear underwater and swiftly under the tree. The gear was tethered to the boat. The passengers, thankfully, were not.

The pair bobbed up just on the other side of the tree and were able to stand up and fight the current until they got to shore. The canoe was now on its side with the bottom of the canoe pinned to the massive trunk, held in place by the flowing water. All boats stopped. I pulled over upstream from the tree and went to work unleashing the battered gear from the boat and release it from its underwater torture chamber. Now all that remained was to get the canoe off the tree, dumped the water from it and move on.

I had gotten plenty of boats upright before and was confident I would do the same with this boat quickly. Not so fast. The water was clear. Even though only a small section of one side was above water, I could see the entire boat. It wasn’t caught on anything but was being held in place by the relentless flow of water against the hull. I got in upstream of the boat and grabbed ahold to pull it free. Not only did the canoe not budge a millimeter, the current was pulling my feet under the tree with every tug. No problem. I will brace myself better and try again. Nothing. It was absurd. Other than the force from the current the canoe was totally free. I will never forget the sensation of being out there with my back to the current and the water rushing around me, pulling on the thwarts and getting zero movement. I remember thinking in that instant,

“I wish somebody would turn off the water.” 

I might have even thought.

“Can’t You see what’s happening here? I need some help. This thing isn’t going anywhere.”

As you probably guessed, the water didn’t let up. But it would have been a cool story if it did!

With everyone now gathering around to watch this idiot try to pull the boat off the tree, I stopped to try a new way. I rallied the whole group. We all tried to pull together but it took two seconds for half the group to get swept downstream. Eventually, I had the idea to have as many as could fit stand on the tree. We held each other for balance, and all together, we stepped down on the stern of the canoe. It worked! Little by little the bow began to emerge from the water. Finally, the canoe got enough surface area peeled off the tree trunk for the still submerged part to get swept under the trunk and downstream the boat went.

Best part. That moment turned the entire trip around. We had all bonded over our shared victory. All the nervous energy was gone. I didn’t need to repeat a single instruction from that point on and we had a blast.

So many times since, I have had that same sensation, feeling like I am fighting the current of life instead of flowing with it. It happens most often when I have more to do than I can possibly get done. No one is turning the water off. That moment with the canoe taught me plenty about collective victory, but it also reminds me that when I feel overwhelmed and I am pushed beyond my limits, a shift is coming.

For the aware person, there is always growth outside the limits but for the unprepared mind, only more frustration. 


Let’s keep pushing and expect a breakthrough.

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”


Napoleon Hill



Rick Burris


Sympathy Kills the Spirit

Sympathy Kills the Spirit

One evening several years ago, my wife and I drove an hour to go visit a church and listen to a speaker named Nancy. Nancy had a miraculous story of having survived the July 17, 1981 collapse of a catwalk in the Hyatt Regency. To say the least, Nancy was a dynamic speaker. Just my opinion, listening to her speak was accompanied by some “churchy” activity that was quite bizarre and Nancy didn’t shy away from theatrics. But there was one phrase that she said that stuck with me all these years.

“Sympathy kills the Spirit.”

If you will pardon me for waxing a wee bit academic for a moment, I will tell you why I agree with Nancy’s assertion.

Let’s start with this summary from the February 8, 2016 Blog about the difference between “Sympathy” and “Empathy”



Both have the same Greek root word “pathos” meaning “suffering, feeling”.

“Sym” means “with or together with”

“Em” means “within, in”

Sympathy entered the English language in the mid-1500s broadly meaning “agreement or harmony in qualities between things or people.”

Empathy entered the English Language in the late 1800s with a somewhat technical and now obsolete meaning from the field of psychology, which referred to the physiological manifestation of feelings. The term is now most often used to refer to the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, thereby vicariously experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person.

To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.



This excerpt from Neele Burthon, M.D. in the May 22, 2015 post on Psychology Today thrown something on both ends of the sympathy-empathy engagement spectrum. “Pity” on the left and “Compassion” on the right.

Pity is a feeling of discomfort at the distress of one or more sentient beings, and often has paternalistic or condescending overtones. Implicit in the notion of pity is that its object does not deserve its plight, and, moreover, is unable to prevent, reverse, or overturn it. Pity is less engaged than empathy, sympathy, or compassion, amounting to little more than a conscious acknowledgement of the plight of its object.
Compassion (‘suffering with’) is more engaged than simple empathy, and is associated with an active desire to alleviate the suffering of its object. With empathy, I share your emotions; with compassion, I not only share your emotions but also elevate them into a universal and transcending experience.

Upon reading the article, Robert Shelton, a psychologist in a Californian high school, designed this infographic. Source: Robert Shelton



I am not saying sympathy or pity is morally wrong. They serve a momentary purpose that can make an incredible difference in a person’s well-being. I just don’t think they goes far enough to allow for healing, growth, and lasting change; and they do not include the dynamic of personal responsibility. Bad things happen to people by no fault of their own. The transcendence described above is much more likely with compassion, but it doesn’t happen magically and it doesn’t take place just because “I” engage with a person compassionately.

For true transcendence, “they” (the other person) must be engaged at a level of own-life stewardship. How your compassion causes you to be engaged is just a pathway for the other person to be more engaged in their own outcomes.

Why is this important?

Think about the people you reach out to when you have a problem – your strongest friendships and close working relationships. Consider the patterns of communication in which you typically engage in these moments. Does it stay on the “pity” end of the spectrum or on the “compassion” side? Is there anyone you go to from whom you are just looking for pity? When you are dealing with a life issue, do you just want someone to feel sorry for you or are you really looking for a fresh perspective, hopefulness and alternative solutions?

If you are working with an employee whose life issues are impeding their performance, how do you respond and more importantly, how do you help them respond? There are plenty of work cultures that can best be described as pathetic because the habitual from of engagement is a pity party – a bunch of people sitting around singing their favorite hymn, “Oh, Ain’t it Awful!”

Again, pity isn’t bad. Some moments are so overwhelming and devastating that a “solution” is the last thing we need. But that is not where we need to pitch our tents.

Let’s not let sympathy kill the spirit of growth.


Rick Burris


  1. This message explains some of what I love about coaching and why a coaching relationship is so powerful. Because, it goes even farther to the right of the spectrum of engagement and empowers others to better steward their own life.


Letting Go

Letting Go

Did you hear about Andrew Honnold?
He accomplished one of the most amazing displays of human potential that will happen in our lifetime. He wasn’t the first to climb the sheer 3,000-foot face of Yosemite’s El Capitan, but he was the fastest, and by the way, he did it without ropes. See the video HERE. There are plenty of articles available that do a much better job of describing this feat than I could begin to attempt. I am just watching and admiring from below and wondering what I can learn from him and apply to my life. When you watch video of Andrew on a mountainside, he is so relaxed and casual. His calmness belies the danger; but when the right camera angle reveals the distant to the forest floor, my mind screams, “hold on!”. But it occurs to me that what makes Alex amazing, is knowing exactly when to let go an trust his training and experience and make the next move up.
I had to get a new iPhone. The old one won’t maintain its charge for any reasonable amount of time. For example, going from 80% charge to 10% charge in 20 minutes. I was prepared even to switch carriers if it meant getting the phone thrown in, but in the end the cheapest way was to pay the deductible and get a replacement. My new phone was here the very next day. It was beyond simple. They send a new (refurbished) phone in the box complete with a set of earbuds and a new charger. (Big score since the cats have ruined every other pair of headphones.)
Poor wi-fi connection not withstanding, the transfer was smooth until it came to the contacts. Somehow about 40 contacts didn’t make it to the new phone. What I expected to take just a couple of minutes turned into several hours of watching videos, downloading apps for contacts, backing up contacts in every possible format, but still no transfer to the new phone. I am certain there is a solution and thankfully a friend who works in the Apple store is coming to dinner. I am guessing he will have the transfer complete in five minutes.
I really need to be done with this and move on. When I opened the new phone yesterday, the Planning Fallacy bias kicked in which is basically the tendency to grossly underestimate how long a task will take to complete. After spending so many hours on it yesterday and a couple this morning, I realized the problem wasn’t about the contacts. The problem was with my unwillingness to let go and move on to the important things right in front of me. Of the 40 yet-to-be-transferred contacts there may be 2 or 3 I really need and those I can like get when the next text message comes in. The contacts weren’t holding me back from doing other things. I was stuck because I wouldn’t let go and trust I would be okay.
My friend owed me a phone call, one that was two weeks overdue. I have provided content for a project of his. In honor of a commitment I made to him, I provided the content as a gift but with a couple of stipulations for its use. He hadn’t called me because of some hesitancy about those stipulations, but as we talked, it was clear to both of us that the place he was really stuck was in facing the reality of now being fully responsible for the project and its manifestation.
In my past life as a camp executive, I had one specific regret, I held onto an employee for several months longer than I should have and it cost me plenty of pain. The reasons to say goodbye were in plain sight. Those above me wanted to hold on for fear of a lawsuit (sound familiar to anyone). But I held on because I thought I needed this person. Big mistake and once that person was gone everything and everyone made one more move up the mountain.
Alex Honnold didn’t just roll out of bed one Saturday and say. “I think I will go climb that mountain over there”. He knows every foot of the ascent because he has been there. Before he went up without ropes, he went up several times with ropes just to be familiar with where to hold on and when to let go. He even backed off the free climb on a previous attempt because it didn’t feel right.
What is waiting up the mountain once you decide to let go? It’s hard to let go of what feels safe and comfortable in the moment. Letting go is risky, but sometimes holding on can cost you your soul.

Rick Burris

Who Loves You, Baby

Who Loves You, Baby

I am borrowing a question for you to think into this week from one of my childhood hereos, Kojak.

“Who loves you, baby?”

Read it one more time.

Who loves you? 

Notice. I did not ask,

“How many people love you?”


I am asking “who”.

I want you to stop for 30 seconds right now and watch the faces of the people who love you pass by in your mind. I will wait quietly.

Did you see them? Could you say their names?

Last question for today.
When all the faces of the people who love you passed by your mind’s eye, was your face one of them?

You are worthy of your own love. There isn’t one more thing you need to be, do, or have, to be valuable enough to merit your own love. You deserve the best thoughts you can offer yourself today.


Rick Burris


No. 2 Pencil

No. 2 Pencil

What memories get conjured up for you when you hear the phrase,

“You must use a Number 2 pencil and darken in only one oval per question.”

Yesterday I proctored for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Administering the test is exact and rigid. The participants arrive carrying a clear plastic bag which is inspected upon arrival to be sure it contains no contraband like cell phones, digital watches, or even click pencils. In the testing room, the process continues with a two-step verification of identity and assignment of seating. Throughout the testing process, the strict instructions are roboticly read by the room supervisor to insure there is no deviation of procedure. Testing materials are distributed, collected and counted in a prescribed and precise manner. The narrow road to law school goes only through one gate – an adequate score on the LSAT. The rigidity of procedure for the LSAT and many tests like it provides consistency and fairness to all participants but most of the protocol is designed for one purpose. There appears to be a shortcut into law school, one that does require some creativity but does not require the hours of effort in preparation. That shortcut is cheating.


There is no honor in gaining entrance into law school through dishonesty. Who wants a lawyer who isn’t equipped to pass the bar exam let alone the law school admissions test? But our brains are hard wired to make and take shortcuts. Most of the time it serves us very well. Imagine if every time you dove a car you had to consciously think about every move as if it were the first time you did it. The shortcuts we develop save time. This is especially true in the way we think.

The LSAT is a series of five 35-minute exams followed by one 35-minute written portion. The required tasks for a proctor don’t take more than a grand total of 5 minutes. The other 205 minutes are spent in total silence. The proctor stands, sits, or walks about the room to prevent cheating. The only escape from the silence comes when a participant has to use the restroom. Since even restroom breaks are monitored, a proctor stands in the hallway when a participant has to go.

This was my second time proctoring. Even if I did have a phone, it wouldn’t have been allowed in the room. You can’t bring a book to read. There is no writing allowed. No grocery lists. No to-do lists. No tic-tac-toe or crossword puzzles and certainly no screen. A couple of hours after writing about A.N.T.s – Automatic Negative Thoughts, I had 200+ minutes of facing my own thoughts and napping was not permitted. I will readily admit much of the time was boring as hell, but I chose to use the opportunity to challenge my thinking. It was uncanny how my thoughts repeatedly gravitated toward negativity or utter nonsense. It took a tremendous amount of intention to calibrate my thought compass to a level of possibility thinking especially since I think best in the early morning.
However, I persisted and there was a payoff. After several rounds of advancing and retreating, this verse came to my mind.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

I began to mentally list the “lovely” things in my life. Somehow this led to the birth of an idea for a completely new offering from Leaders Fuel. (Stay tuned for the unveiling and evolution of this offering.)

As a coach and life strategist, the greatest value I add to others is as a thinking partner.
Henry Ford said,

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, that is why so few people partake in it.”

Along with any other title I carry, I am a business owner and a new business owner at that. As a new business owner, I am currently crossing the threshold from product development (Life Leaders GPS) to business building. The reason why yesterday was so important for me is that life (and business) is an inside out job. It cost money to start a business – a lot of money. Hiring a coach is the wisest investment because it is hard to see the picture when you are in the frame. There is nothing that effects the results a business owner gets than the quality of thinking of the owner.

As one of my mentors, Christian Simpson put it,


If information, knowledge and “ninja” tactics were “where it’s at” in terms of driving up profits, significantly increasing personal income and wealth with less hassle, less headaches and more freedom for the business owner – the percentages of the “have’s” and “have nots” in entrepreneurial life would be reversed.


Still, despite the observable realities, huge swathes of well-intentioned people continue to focus their attention on the “mechanics”. And so their frustration, mediocrity and misery continues.

A coaching partnership is a designed alliance between the coach and the participant in which both parties bring their energy to the goals of the participant. The coach, however, is not inside the frame and, therefore, is not attached to the outcome. I cannot measure the value of the coaches in my life. I know my thinking must be continually challenged because my business will only be as good as the thinking I bring to it. The same is true for each of us.

I’m not sure you need 200 minutes to begin to uncover your own thinking patterns, but why not take 15 minutes and see what you discover. When you, or anyone you know, is looking for a thinking partner, be aware that I am now taking on coaching clients.


Rick Burris




I was happy to get my new phone last week. After dealing with the previous phone’s waning ability to keep a charge, it was nice not to be tethered all day. The new phone worked just fine until about 1:30pm Saturday when the last thing I read on the wet screen was,

“Your iPhone is disabled and shutting down.”

We woke up Saturday morning expecting to load up the bikes and drive to DuPont State Recreation Forest. DuPont is on the bucket list for many avid mountain bikers and it is just a short drive from our house. It is our favorite place to ride. But even closer to us is the Green River. We had never tubed the Green River so I asked if everyone would rather go there and got an enthusiastic ‘YES’.

Best decision. The tubing company has a great set up. Within minutes we were checked in and walked a few steps to the river with our tubes in hand. We traded playing photographer with a group of young girls from Charlotte launching next to us. The cell phones went into the dry bag and off we went. We were having so much fun. We would link together on the slower stretches and break apart at the rapids. The water was clear and cold. The scenery was gorgeous and we were laughing a lot. I remember thinking I should get a picture before the float was over so, being waist-deep in the current, I carefully fished my phone out of the dry bag. A few snacks and a bottle of water and we were on our way.

I feel most in control laying on my belly facing forward while tubing. That way I can maneuver better and stand up any time the depth permits. I had the dry bag clipped to a handle and draped inside my tube. That worked well unless it was so shallow that the dry bag scraped the bottom, in which case I would plop the bag on top of the tube. After one of the faster rapids, I stopped to check on my family and the dry bag. Imagine my surprise when I lifted the clear bag and found it full of water. The entire contents of the bag were submerged including all four of our family’s cell phones. We regrouped immediately. Right there in the middle of the river, I doled out the contents and poured the remaining water. With an hour still left on the river all we could do was put everything back in and secure the bag properly this time. As you might expect, those phones are goners.

After a week of check engine lights going off in cars, the AC going out, and the general financial stress of business ownership, it was a hard pill to swallow. The momentum shift for our family was palpable. Intellectually we already know that this story goes into the annals as “Remember that time on the Green River”. But, dealing with the hassle and expense of four new phones is not how I planned to spend my time this week.

The incident has led to some great family discussions. In situations like these, it is easy to let our minds run wild with A.N.T.s. ANTs are Automatic Negative Thoughts. The moniker comes from Dr. Daniel Amen’s book The Magnificent Mind at Any Age. Dr. Amen is a psychiatrist who has specialized in using brain scans for patient care. When I read his material on Automatic Negative Thoughts, I knew it was a perfect fit for the Silence the Gremlins lesson of the Life Leaders GPS.

For better or worse, much of our life is ruled by our imagination. Our imagination is much stronger than our will. It is a powerful causative force in our life. With our imagination, we are simultaneously interpreting our world and creating it. Left unchecked our imagination may draw conclusions about our external circumstances that can wreak havoc on our peace of mind. The reason why they are called “automatic” negative thoughts is that they are habitual. Dr. Amen suggests that there are at least nine different default grooves into which the needle of our internal record player slips. They are as follows.

Fortune Telling – predicting the worst will happen
Always/Never Thinking – victimhood thinking
Hyper-negative Focus – being stuck replaying negative moments
Mind Reading – thinking the worst about another person’s motives
Deciding with Feelings – trusting your negative emotions
Guilt Beatings – replaying an incident over and over and saying (to yourself or someone else) “How could you have been so stupid!?”
Labeling – categorizing people or situations in a way that causes rigidity of thought
Personalization – taking circumstances personally (especially after rejection)
Blame – attaching responsibility inappropriately

The Silence the Gremlins lesson involves learning to talk back to negative thinking. It is what Dr. Amen calls A.N.T. eaters. When life disappoints me, and also when things go my way, I have found it helpful to keep this list handy. Right now, is a perfect example. I may have visited each of these in the last 48 hours, but none of them get me any closer to replacement phones. Time to eat some ants and go get on with it.

For today, you can call me a lot of things, but you can’t call me on the phone unless you want to listen to my voicemail.

Warmly (and wetly),

Rick Burris


I Do Declare

I Do Declare

Today is a new day. It is new and there is nothing old about it. I want you to be encouraged today as I also want to be encouraged. Today, I am speaking into desperation and regret and talking back to it with you. I have some belief to loan you. This is what I declare.

Guilt gets no real estate in your mind today. I am serving Guilt an eviction notice right now so he can pack his bags and get the hell out immediately. Your old friend, Wonder is moving back in. Today you remember victory. Today you can see the magnificence of your life and the excellent choices you have made. You can see the solid building blocks of your hopeful future still firmly in place.

Regret has no place in you today. You let her go. She gets replaced with good memories and pleasant beginnings. Without her pulling you backwards your focus goes forward to what you really want. You are refreshed by the renewal of your energy and you will be surprised by how much of it you have left over at the end of the day. Instead of feeling exhausted at bedtime you will be excited for tomorrow.

Doubt has to go too – right this instant! Confidence has come back to stay and he doesn’t share the stage with doubt, ever! Confidence is pulling your chin up and your shoulders back and your quiet strength is calmly bringing Resolve to all the fiber of your being. You can feel it in the way you sit, in the way you stand, in the way you walk, and in the way you breathe.

Faith wins today and you are anxious for NOTHING! Everything you do is easier today. With the soul-suckers gone you are free to take delight in your day. Your smile is genuine today and people notice. You enjoy adding more value to others. Today you make great decisions. You do the things that make money first. You have no trouble arranging your day. Today you enjoy happiness with every person you encounter because you realize you are free to see the best in people and resolve conflicts quickly. There is no one to blame for anything.

You are unique and in all of time there will never be another person exactly like you. Today you go forth and lead with the best of who you are and it is attractive. You are a co-creator of your life. You choose outstanding thoughts and you take positive action because you know you can. Today is a new day it is a great day and you are making it a great day!


Rick Burris


Rejection Happens

Rejection Happens

It is no fun being rejected. Is it? Alright, it downright sucks! None of us enjoy being rejected but perhaps, even as we are licking our wounds, there is something to be gained. Maybe we can lose the moment but still win the day.

Here are a few thoughts I have on the subject that might be good for us to keep in mind.

Rejection is inevitable.
American burlesque dancer and costume designer, Dita Von Teese said,

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

Getting fired from a job was one of the most shocking moments of my life. But it was in that moment that I distinctly heard (from the Holy Spirit, as I see it) the words, ‘You are going to move forward and not backwards.’ That is just what I have done. I am convinced that message was meant to keep me out of the pit of bitterness and one of thinking that I somehow was the “getting fired” pioneer. As if I made some new discover no one had ever experienced before.

Strategic advisor, business coach and author Dan S Kennedy says,

“If you haven’t pissed someone off by noon, you’re doing something wrong.”

Rejection is temporary.
To me, one of the greatest advantages of being a person of faith, is understanding the temporary nature of trials. This is especially true when it comes to rejection. It is my unwavering belief that you and I are purposeful creations. Letting the “nos” of our life lead to bigger “yeses” (some posthumously) puts us in good company.

Van Gogh got almost zero external validation in his life. He only sold one painting while he was alive but he is considered one of the greatest artist of all time.

Less than a dozen of Emily Dickinson’s 1800 poems were published while she was alive.

Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times.

Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times.

Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because, his editor said, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

JK Rowling got fired when working at the London office of Amnesty International because she would write stories on her work computer all day long.

After a performance at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, Elvis was told by the concert hall manager that he was better off returning to Memphis and driving trucks (his former career)

Steve Jobs was fired from his own company.

When Marilyn Monroe was trying to start her career, modeling agencies told her she should consider becoming a secretary.

Rejection is NOT your middle name.
Brian was 15 years old when he came to the boys’ camp. Both he and his mom lived with his grandparents who clearly loved Brian and his mom. Mom’s love for Brian was not so apparent. In fact, she was without affect most of the time I was around her. Brian was a bright young man but was failing in school and had recently been in some trouble for breaking into someone’s home. Making a long story short, Brian was the offspring of his mother being raped in her early teen years. Brian got an immense amount of love from his grandparents but always a sense of being unwanted by his mom. I was amazed in the year I spent with Brian to see him process the rejection he felt from his mom. Sometimes it was incredibly painful. He had spent his entire life with an unspoken understanding that he was not wanted. Brian, however, was unwilling to live his life as a victim. He had to remind himself over and over again that the circumstances of his origin were not his identity. It was hard to let go of his mother’s rejection, but once he realized that he did not have to change his mom in order to be acceptable, many things about his life began to change for the better. Brian is a champ. He hasn’t let rejection be his résumé for life and the world gets to enjoy Brian for the amazing gift he is.

If you believe yourself to be an un-resourceful person, if you are content leaving everyone you meet neutral or if you are fond of the role of victim, it is best not to put yourself out there in any creative way (artist, writer, realtor, business owner, singer, etc.). The fear of rejection is the number one reason why too many people sell out and won’t risk anything for a dream. However, once you do step out of your comfort zone, you are likely to discover resilience you never knew you possessed.

Building rapport and credibility takes time. It is a process. In fact, one of my favorite laws of leadership is the Law of Process which says leadership is built daily, not in a day. My two pieces of advice, while we wait for rapport and credibility to become established, is first, that we maintain our character and integrity, and second, is that we don’t make rejection an identity.

Remember that acceptance (rapport and credibility) are currency. They are the means to the end and not the end themselves. People want to do business with those they know, like and trust. Your reputation will get you in the door but your character will keep you there.

There is a mission/purpose for our lives. If you don’t know what yours is, then stop wasting time and get started with the Life Leaders GPS and find out. An improper focus on acceptance often causes people to do things contrary to the character and integrity they desire. I am convinced that most (but not all) sexual misbehavior, for example, stems from a yearning for acceptance.

Rejection is an opportunity for growth.
If we can get over the sting of rejection, there is an opportunity for balanced reflection to let rejection be feedback that enhances our personal and professional growth. Some rejection, especially abandonment, is just human cruelty and others might be a good indicator that it is time for a change.

As a new business owner, I have experienced something that makes me wonder if others have had the same thing happen. I can think of three people with whom I have spent time in meetings that involved conversations at a high level of excitement. We shared an idea we both felt passionate about and ended the meetings with action steps for follow up. I walked out of those meetings wondering how the time had passed so quickly and anticipating what would come next. And then…NOTHING. No follow through (on the part of the other person). No phone call. No email. Not even a simple text message. I called, no answer. I emailed, no reply. I texted, no response. What am I? A stalker? What is the deal!? Days, weeks and in one case months go by with zero feedback. It reminded me of what George Bernard Shaw said,

“The trouble with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I wanted a different result, but in each case, I had to realize the lack of response had nothing to do with me.

It can be difficult not to allow emotions to cloud our thinking, but oftentimes, rejection says more about the “rejector” than the “rejectee”.

The situations I described above pale in comparison to the three siblings whose mother abandoned them by putting them on the city bus and then jumped out of her seat at the last second in an attempt to leave them behind. They followed. She got back on until the next stop and tried again. Same result. She persisted until she finally timed it just right for her to be outside the closed door staring back at her children for the last time as the bus pulled away. Those three kids stayed on the bus until the end of the day when the driver kicked them off. They spent two weeks living under a bridge and eating discarded banana peels until they were found and taken to an orphanage.

There is no excusing the behavior of the mom, but it is easy to understand, it had nothing to do with the children. Some rejection comes because people do evil things. I met those kids and spent time with them. They are loving and happy. They didn’t know I knew their story and I would never have guessed what they had been through because they weren’t spending their life telling the world how they had been victimized. No time for that.

Not being chosen, being dismissed, being told “no” or not being contacted at all are tough pills to swallow but feedback is the breakfast of champions. While you are working for the bigger “yes” watch your expectations and make sure they are realistic. You may be fishing in the wrong pond. As Edison said about inventing the light bulb.

“I didn’t fail. I just found 10,000 ways it didn’t work.”

Being flexible in our behavior doesn’t mean we have to sell out on our dreams.


Keep believing in the bigger “YES”.


Rick Burris


What’s the Use

What’s the Use

Not all weekends are created equally. This one happened to be especially enjoyable. The weather was gorgeous and we actively took advantage of it. Friday night Kate and I had a long overdue date. The band of some friends of ours was playing at a local bakery and sandwich shop. We found some comfortable chairs around an unlit fire pit and enjoyed conversation with friends while listening to the music.

We made two Aikido milestones Last week. Micah passed his final test for his blue (Sankyu) belt and Jonah was promoted to from the kids’ class to the adult class. The three of us started our Saturday with an Aikido class.

I had an interesting experience, personally, at Sunday morning worship. I ended a seven day fast (lemon detox) with the bread and wine of Communion. I have gone ten days before without food on another lemon detox and three without food or water cutting weight for wrestling in college. (Never do that, by the way. Take my word for it). But I wondered, as I ate the bread what it must have been like to go without food for forty days.
The best news of the weekend came for Kate as we were leaving church. It was the kind of news that trumps anything else that can happen in a day and was the brightest spot of the weekend. But, I will have to wait a few days to share it. For the rest of the day we were walking on air figuratively and floating on water literally.

Greenville, South Carolina is home to the largest kayak manufacturer in the world and one of our friends works there. Just after getting the good news, we went home to pack a lunch before heading to our friends for an afternoon of kayaking on Saluda Lake. Each of us had our own boat but the two Micah and I had are prototype boats that never made the manufacturing line. They are actually not kayaks, but rather, one-person canoes. There is no seat in them. You sit in the bottom of the boat and rest you back on a thwart. From that position, you can paddle either with a single-bladed canoe paddle, or a double-bladed kayak paddle. We had one of each in our boats. I made an incorrect assumption that we would only use the canoe paddle. Unfortunately for Micah. I handed him the shortest kayak paddle and it cost him later. With a slight breeze at our backs, we casually paddled out about two miles. We took our time along the way with a bit of exploration. On the way out, the six of us stayed fairly close together.

Once we made the turn to head back in, there was a shift of mindset. Besides paddling against the wind, we were all thinking of our agenda for the rest of the day. I switched to the kayak paddle and was much more effective than the canoe paddle. The one I gave Micah, however, was too small to use. The clustered boats quickly got strung out into an increasingly spreading line. It wasn’t long before the four kayaks had out distanced our two canoes by a quarter to a half mile. There wasn’t a spirit of competition. We were each enjoying the trip at our own pace but, for a short time, an interesting dynamic happened with Micah.  The more he fell behind the group, the less he paddled. As I watched him, I could completely relate to the feeling.

Sometimes you feel like you are doing all you can and you look around and it seems everyone else is farther along than you. Everything about their lives appears easier. They are gifted with better kayaks and better paddles. Eventually you feel so far behind you wonder,

“What’s the use?”

Micah didn’t stay in that mindset for long. He got back to the dock only a minute or two after I did. I don’t know what changed in Micah to get him going again but it occurs to me that there are three things we can keep in mind when we feel like we are so far behind there is no use trying.

Stay out of the comparison gap. “Better than” is often imaginary. In other words, it often has no bearing on the important measurement of personal and professional life and it puts our focus on the wrong goals.

Set small goals. Big dreams are great but they happen through several small steps. Find a quick win to accomplish and use small goals to build a bigger goal.

Do the next right thing. Don’t trust your negative emotions. They never see the larger unfolding picture and they waste your time and energy. Stay out of the aimless drift. Your time is your life.

Keep paddling and make it a terrific week.


Rick Burris


Burden of Proof

Burden of Proof

How long has it been since you read a review of a product before you purchased it? Ever thought about why we do that?

We need proof. We think, “I’m not going to be the first fool or the next sucker who is duped into letting go of my hard-earned cash. I need proof this will be worth my money/time.”

Just as much as we want others to give us proof of the benefits they claim to offer, we carry a burden to prove something to ourselves. I can’t speak for you but I am willing to admit that I often feel that way about God. My experience says, beyond the primary quest of whether God exists, the secondary question is, “Is He good.” Meaning is He out for my good.

I find it very refreshing that a spiritual giant like Jim Elliot wrote,

“I have prayed for new miracles. Explaining old miracles will not do. If God is to be known as the God who does wonders in heaven and earth, then God must produce for this generation.”

Any person with an entrepreneurial spirit, anyone who dares to pull away from the mass consciousness in any way, is a person of faith. Look at this verse,

“Faith is the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for.”

The boldness to believe that an idea, a service, or a product has value in the marketplace before one solitary sale is made is an act of faith. Stop and look around you. Everything, and I mean everything, you see has been created twice.

It was first created as an idea/thought and then it became manifest. That time between the first creation and the second creation requires faith (a tremendous measure of it sometimes) that a concept can be proven. Once that proof comes, we need a new dose of the faith/proof vitamin. Old evidence won’t do. We need new evidence.

Here is what I know. 80% of new businesses fail in their first five years. That number matters to me since my own business is still in its infancy (7 months old). My perspective is that many amazing ideas, products, and services didn’t last because faith was lost before the new proof was found.

Business acumen is critical. It brings the proof in the form of customers/users/clients and sales and helps us manage the business of business. Plenty of people are unaware of, or lack the skills necessary for a thriving business, but I find that when I am not wasting energy battling belief, skill development and business building opportunities abound.

I hope your energies will be invested in new evidence today.



Rick Burris


Move Over Historian

Move Over Historian

“That’s the way it’s always been done.”

Have you ever experienced a work situation where the people who were there the longest were the worst employees? I certainly have, and God forbid, those same employees be seen as irreplaceable, or worse yet, be very popular. There is nothing more spirit-numbing than to be in an environment where change is needed and unproductive people cannot be shown the door.

If you are relating to what I am saying, I am guessing your mind went right to a toxic person from your past or current work setting who muddies the waters for everyone else. I recently had a conversation with a department head of a college who had such an employee whom she was stuck with until one afternoon while walking out of the building, this employee thought it would be funny to kick another employee in the butt.

It took something so obvious and blatant for the change to occur that many had been holding their breath about for years. Sometimes a kick in the butt is a gift.

Is this familiar at all to you? That situation where new possibilities are on the horizon but the old guard will not let go of the way things have always been done. A complete changing of the guard isn’t always necessary especially when those clinging to the past can somehow make room for the future.

Yesterday I wrote about two opposing voices, the Inner Gremlin and the Inner Champion. Similar to the work environments described above, we may be giving too much mental space to our personal “Historian” when we need to make room for a “Futurist”. We may be allowing what lies behind us to dominate our thoughts and spending precious little time considering what lies ahead of us.

The things we consistently think about are the things we attract into our lives. 


Studies estimate that most people think about the same 10 things over and over again. In fact, it is estimated that without conscious effort to interrupt our thoughts, 90% of what we think today will match what we thought yesterday.

The Historian is the default. It is the automatic setting, and he may not like it but we still get to choose our thoughts. Tomorrow, I will share some ideas about how to give more room to the Futurist and spend less time dwelling on the past and more time engaging in “Possibility Thinking”.

So, tell the Historian in you that company is coming.


Rick Burris




“So, when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby.” Prince and the Revolution 1984

Prince had it right. Sooner or later we’re all going to die. Between now and then, how are we living? Yesterday I wrote about the default tendencies of our thinking, much of which is dominated by the Historian who could lead the unconscious person to believe that all that has been is all that is possible. Just consider for a moment how that affects your outlook on taking new action in your life. Those moments of hesitation and doubt, where do they come from? It comes from the Historian or the Gremlin who are both limited by what they have seen so far. The Futurist, by definition, studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends. The Futurist casts a vision of the future that includes possibilities not previously experienced.

The Inner Gremlin/Inner Champion relationship is more of an either/or dynamic. We either go with the Gremlin or we go with the Champion. That is why the Life Leaders GPS lesson is entitled “Silence the Gremlin”. That guy just needs to sit down and shut up.

The Historian/Futurist relationship is more “both/and”. That is, unless the Historian refuses to share the oxygen, and turns into a Gremlin. We simply need to understand when the Historian needs to share the stage.

How much of your mind is left to think into new possibilities?

Alright, enough metaphor. I promised to offer suggestions on how to better engage the Futurist. Here are a few ideas. Feel free to shoot a few my way.

Schedule a Time/Space
Don’t just stay busy being busy. Put margin times on the calendar for thinking. Find a distraction-free place that inspires your thinking.

Make an Advocate of the Historian
Let the Historian remind you of all that has come to pass that once looked impossible.

What is prayer but an opportunity to express gratitude for coming this far and ask for yet unseen things to come to into existence. Prayer is possibility thinking at its best.

See It Twice
Envision the fully-realized-version of what you want. What does it look like? What does it feel like, smell like? Now hold that picture in your mind’s eye and ask how to get it. What will it take to go from here to there?

Write It Down
Like an architect creates a drawing, write down the action steps like a blueprint.

Hold the Image
Keep the unseen thing in front of you until you see it the second time.
This list may already make sense to you. I didn’t go into great detail and illustration, but there is enough in this short list to empower your thinking at an entirely new level. Perhaps you read it and felt somehow disappointed by its simplicity. But are you doing this? If those close to you were asked, would they say your direction seems clear and they can tell you have purpose in what you do?

If this helped you, share it with someone and tell them where you got it from. You send out the invitations and I will make room for more company.


Rick Burris


My Life of Crime

My Life of Crime

Here is a good ice-breaker game to find things people have in common. It is simple and not very physical. It’s called “Have you ever…?”. You think of something you have done to see if others in the room have done the same thing. You might ask,

“Have you ever gone to Disney World?”

Anyone who has done it, raises their hands, or stands up, switches chairs…whatever.


So, by show of hands,

“Have you ever been arrested?”

Anyone? I have.


Sit back in your seat because I am about to reveal a gripping tale of how I ended up in the slammer. My first brush with the law came at age 14. I grew up on a bike. At least in the 1970s and 80s, learning to ride a bike was a major leap forward in a life of greater independence. There were almost no boundaries to where you could go on your bike. We were literally all over town. In eighth grade, it got tougher. You weren’t old enough to drive a car but the cool factor of riding a bike was starting to wear off.


Thankfully, my family had a moped (like a scooter with pedals). I was so glad when my brother Scott got his driver’s license because that gave me free reign on the moped. I can’t tell you how many times I took that thing up and down the alley behind our house since I couldn’t legally drive it on the streets until I had a driver’s license myself. Even though my state allowed motorcycle riding without a helmet, at 14 you had to wear a helmet while riding a moped.

It didn’t take long for me to decide to hit the streets with the moped, and of course, I wasn’t going to wear my helmet. I made it four blocks from the house when I met an oncoming police car. Busted. I panicked. Instead of just stopping for what might have been a friendly reminder to get off the street, I made a break for it.

Now picture this. I am on a moped which has a top speed of 20 MPH (32km/h). I was going away from my house and the police car was headed toward my house. I “whipped” it around and ducked into the alley to make my way home and avoid any ticket. (Think of parallel roads with houses back to back. The alley was a narrow gravel path between the houses.) The policeman calmly watched my folly. No lights or sirens, he made no turn in hot pursuit. He just slowed down and paralleled me back to the house. While I was behind the houses, I was hidden. But at each intersection, there he was. My adrenaline was pumping and I went full throttle. At the next intersection, I’m sure I saw him grinning. I had one last escape. I would get back to the house and run inside like nothing ever happened. I ditched the moped in the back yard and sprinted in the back door only to look up and see the policeman at the front door in a conversation with my mother. I think they were laughing until I sheepishly walked up. My mom put on her“you’re-in-big-trouble-mister!” face.

A brief lecture. No more moped for a while. No ticket. No handcuffs. I escaped the jail this time. Mostly just an opportunity for the policeman to go back to the station and say,

“You’re not going to believe this one.”

Read below to see how the law finally caught up with me.

I once heard a lady say,

“Don’t judge me by my 18-year-old self.” 

I would like to invoke that privilege on this story.


My Life of Crime Continues


I went to college in Springfield, Missouri, USA. The youngest of my three sisters, Janna, lives in the Branson, Missouri area. We were about an hour away and saw each other too infrequently. I was long overdue for a visit. The only problem was that my old truck was having problems and I was too penniless to fix it. I borrowed my roommate, Aaron’s truck and headed down to Branson for the weekend.

I was halfway to Branson on I-65 when the red lights came flashing behind me. I wasn’t speeding so I thought the officer would go around me quickly, but he kept following me and off to the shoulder I went. On the vehicle tag is a 1”x1” sticker. It is the one that signifies if you have paid your vehicle taxes for the year. Unbeknown to me prior to this very moment, Aaron’s tag was expired. Somehow this officer spotted that from a distance.

The encounter was very brief. I answered a couple of questions about where I was headed and pulled off with a ticket and a gentle reminder that the ticket needed to be paid in two weeks. I had a wonderful visit with my sister and promptly handed the ticket to Aaron as soon as I walked back in the door on Sunday. I also passed the same reminder I was given. Aaron apologized and I never gave it a second thought. Unfortunately, neither did he.

It must have been six months later, another weekend trip, another borrowed vehicle. This time I was driving a small car that belonged to my friend Lane. At that time, my best friend Russ was in chiropractic college in St. Louis, which is a four-hour drive from Springfield. We met up for a weekend of hiking in the Ozark Mountains. Saturday morning, we got up very early, threw some food in Lane’s car and headed out to our destination. I didn’t pay any attention to the missing tail light on the car, but someone else noticed about two hours into the drive. I couldn’t believe I was getting pulled over twice in one year and wasn’t speeding either time. The trooper let me know about the missing light but, this exchange wasn’t so pleasant. He was very suspicious and scanning the vehicle. I’m sure we looked like a couple of ragamuffins and it might not be an overuse of the word to say that he interrogated us about where we were going.

I could tell Russ was getting agitated. He didn’t appreciate the questions at all. His answers kept getting shorter. After a few minutes, the trooper went back to his car with my driver’s license in his hands. He was in there long enough I knew I was getting another ticket. I was wondering how much a ticket for a missing light could be. Mostly, I was thinking about hiking and ready to get down the road. Imagine my surprise when the officer came back and said,

“Mr. Burris, there is a warrant out for your arrest. I need you to step out of the vehicle slowly and place your hands on the top of the car.”

I simultaneously heard Russ yelling, “What!” from inside the car and the trooper behind me say,

“I am placing you under arrest for an unpaid ticket and failure to show up in court.”

My right hand went in the handcuffs first and then the left. Russ was instructed to move to the driver’s seat of Lane’s car and follow us. I was led to the back of the trooper’s car. My head was spinning. I don’t remember the drive, but I remember pulling up to the station and being driven around back. An automatic gate, lined with a coil of razor wire at the top, slid open to let us in. Next, was a short walk in the door. Handcuffs come off. Stand on the spot. Look at the camera. Roll the fingers of your right hand on the black ink pad. Now the left. Press each digit down in the proper square. Rock them side to side. Wipe your hands with the paper towel and take a seat in the holding cell.

I don’t know if all holding cells smell like urine, but this one sure did. Thankfully, I was the only one in this cinder block room so I got the stainless steel bench all to myself. The wait was long enough I knew hiking was out of the question. Eventually, someone came to the door to tell me bail had been set at $400 and you had to pay in cash. I’m not sure what I thought would happen, it just never crossed my mind that I would have to pay money to get out of jail. $400! That was my net worth. I almost never had that much in my checking account but, as it happens, there was a bank error just prior to this weekend. I had been double charged for an item and had unexpected money in my account that gave me a balance of $450. I handed my debit card out through the door. They carried it down the hall to the waiting room and gave it to Russ.

All this time, I couldn’t hear what was happening in the waiting room, but Russ was not happy about our detour. When the waiting room door opened, I heard Russ sarcastically yell,

“You’ve got a real hardened criminal back there!”

He drove and got the money and paid the bail. Aaron and I had a little talk when I got home.

“Oh yeah, I’d been meaning to pay that thing.”

Actually, he was very apologetic, he paid the ticket immediately and got my money back to me. The court date was a non-event except to hear the excuses that every “poor victim” in the packed court room had to say when their turn came before the judge. I waited four hours to stand in front of the judge for all of 15 seconds and hear him say all charges were dropped since everything was already paid.

“Next case.”

There you have it. My scandalous history is revealed. I hope you find time for a good laugh this weekend, especially if it means remembering the ironic moments of your past that remind you that all you have done is not the measure of all you are capable of doing. It is great to have messy stories to share. Tell someone yours Friend.


Rick Burris


Rudyard and James

Rudyard and James

Learning from Rudyard and James

Here is what I know. You and I can grow from our circumstances…if we pay the price required. Let’s borrow a success formula from two masters from the early 20th century, Rudyard Kipling and James Allen. Here is an excerpt from a short poem in Rudyard Kipling’s Elephant Child story that was published 115 years ago in his book Just So Stories. Let’s start there. We only need these first few lines to see a formula for success.

“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who…”

Now, let’s consider (seriously, not casually) these four quotes from James Allen’s, As a Man Thinketh published in 1903.

“As the progressive and evolving being, man is where he is that he may learn that he may grow; as he learns the spiritual lesson which any circumstance contains for him, it passes away and gives place to other circumstances.”

“The mind is master-weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstance.” 

“Act is the blossom of thought, and joy and suffering are its fruits.”

And finally,

“Thought and character are one, and as character can only manifest and discover itself through environment and circumstance, the outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state.”

It is Monday. We have a choice to make. We can either drift along in auto-pilot mode and remain comfortable until life interrupts us with its own rules and price of admission; or we can interrupt ourselves and pay the fee we choose that puts us on a higher road. The fee we pay is better thinking. If you are not catching my metaphor, I am talking about the life and character we are building and the results it is delivering to us. Take your pick. Remain passive and suffer the consequence while looking for someone to blame; or do the difficult work of critical thinking and enjoy the rewards.

When we put these two masters side-by-side a formula emerges that we can follow. Don’t let today pass without answering these questions for yourself.

The Masters’ Formula
Where are you now and why?
What do you want…I mean really?
Whose responsibility is it?
What is the creative process?
What are the common pitfalls?
Can you see it? (How)


Rick Burris




“A man walks down the street
He says, why am I short of attention
Got a short little span of attention
And oh my nights are so long
Where’s my wife and family
What if I die here
Who’ll be my role-model
Now that my role-model is
Gone, gone”

Now that you have Paul Simon in your head, let’s pick up where we left off yesterday.

The fact is that we ARE incompetent in our untapped resources. Comparison serves its best purpose by making us aware of our incompetence. If we are not willing to face the reality of our incompetence and own it, how will we ever become competent? When we are willing to embrace that, we may discover that those with whom we compete (at least in our own heads), are the people who can help us become more competent.

What are you now very competent in that you were once incompetent in?

Riding a bike? Learning to swim? Balancing a checkbook?

All the skills we have acquired followed a learning cycle.


  • We were first unconscious and incompetent. (unaware and unskilled)
  • Then, we were conscious and incompetent. (aware and unskilled)
  • Next, we were conscious and competent. (do it with concentration)
  • Finally, we were unconscious and competent. (do it with one hand tied behind our back)

We learn best through our experience but, in the conscious competent phase especially, we can accelerate the skill development process through observational learning – learning from the experience of others. Pick any skill, even your best skill, and you can find someone who is better developed in that skill than you. What makes us resourceful is our capacity to take on new skills and improve old ones. What makes us wise is identifying those who are farther down the road than us to model.

Modeling is something we are doing all of the time. It is built into us to copy the behavior, thoughts and attitudes of others. I can’t be the only person on the planet who has taken on the mannerisms of another person simply by being around them. We copy words and speech patterns, ways of dressing, the way someone walks.

If we are going to grow as leaders, we need the right people to follow. When it comes to our parenting, our business acumen and the development of our character, we can be intentional about selecting people to model.

How is this happening for you right now? Who are you modeling, Friend? Do they know it?

Modeling is best when it is more than watching. Because of the comparison gap, we may be hesitant to mix it up with those we know are more competent than us but that is when the most accelerated growth happens. We pick up nuggets by observing from a distance, however, there is no substitute for arranging one-on-one time with someone at a higher level than us.

Early in every college sports season, major schools compete against minor ones. Hopefully for the major school it pads the “W” column. But for the minor school it is an opportunity to see how the game is played at a higher level. For example, the National Champion Clemson Tigers Football Team played the South Carolina State Bulldogs on September 17, 2016 to a 59-0 win. The next week SC State turned around and beat Florida A&M 48-14. Knowing that the Tigers are now the National Champions probably softens a 59-0 loss in the memories of Bulldog players but I am certain they played better against Florida A&M because of their experience in playing the Tigers.

As a college wrestler, I lost twice to Chris Lembeck from the University of Northern Iowa. I didn’t just lose. I got spanked. In wrestling, there is something called a technical fall. That is when one person is 15 points ahead of the other. The match immediately stops. Chris beat me twice by technical fall. The second time was at regionals when I was a Sophomore. The following year Chris became my assistant coach. Chris was one of the smoothest and most fluid opponents I ever faced and now I got to work out with him every day. In some ways, it was like learning the sport all over again. To say he made me a better wrestler is an understatement. He helped me understand the sport at an entirely different level. Not only that, he helped me view myself in a new way. I was much more competitive because of the valuable time I spent learning from Chris.

You don’t have to be an athlete to know that those who are farther down the road than us can answer questions we don’t even know to ask. The Life Leaders GPS course consists of three phases: Discover – Develop – Deploy. One of the final lessons is called My Inner Circle. In it, course participants will gain a framework by which they can intentionally create mentoring relationships. It is just one of many things that makes the course a steal at its current price. When you are serious about taking your life to the next level, we will start the journey together and we will learn from one another.


Rick Burris


Treasure 3 of 3

Treasure 3 of 3

For the past two days, we have given thought to treasure and what gives it it’s value. We have looked at three of five things that make treasure valuable: origin, scarcity, and cost of discovery. Today we will complete the three-day series with a look at the role of brilliance and the audience play in ascribing value to treasure.

It is a likely assumption that most men shop for a diamond once in their life and jewelers in your typical mall outlet know this. They can spot the look of the deer in the headlights all the way to the food court. Once they lure you in they have one shot to impress you with the brilliance of their stones. Everything about most jewelry stores is staged for brilliance right down to the dress of the sales staff. One of the first tactics they might employ to the unlearned but slightly interested is to offer an education in the 4 Cs of Diamonds. Then they pull out the rings and display them under a bright light just to show you what clear rocks they have.

Aside from scarcity and clever sales schemes, part of the value of a treasure is its intrinsic brilliance, not just in the shiny sense of the word but possessing some quality of attraction such as skillful craftsmanship or dynamic usefulness. Perhaps it has a history so intriguing that it stirs emotions long after its inception.

For spring break of 2016, Kate and I took the boys for a visit to my brother, Toby, sister-in-law Kim, plus daughters and their growing families in Pennsylvania. On the drive back to South Carolina we made a planned stopover in Washington, D.C.. In two days, we must have walked 10 miles seeing every monument we could. Eventually, we made our way to the National Archives Building to see the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We got in queue and winded our way through the velvet ropes. If the line is of any length, as it was this day, you get in line in a brightly lit hallway and make your way through to the dimly lit Rotunda. We had a wonderful conversation with the boys as we went about the gravity of these two documents in all of world history. With respect to readers outside the U.S., there has never been a country that comes close in comparison on nearly any level. Much of that is owed to the framers of these two documents and the choices they made at their pivotal moment in world history. They could have gone in so many other directions, but they chose the freedom of the individual over all else.

As you get closer, a docent instructs you in how to proceed when your turn comes to view the documents. Even with all the conversation and instruction, I was fully unprepared for the surge of emotions that washed over me when I gazed at the Declaration of Independence. These were real people who put it all on the line by signing this document. They had no guarantee of success, and some paid dearly for their association with this very piece of paper. When they put a quill to this paper it became the epicenter at the fault line of freedom and tyranny that still trembles today. Brilliant!

However, not everyone in the room was feeling the same tremors as I was. In fact, many just seemed content to take a peek and get on with their day. Thousands see these documents daily, but not all are the proper audience to understand them for the treasure they are. It takes the right audience to assign the worth due to treasure.

The Golkanda diamond mine would not exist today if it were up to the land owner who succeeded Ali Hafed. It took the wiser eye of the Buddhist priests to recognize the rock on his mantel as a precious stone. Remember Conrad Reed and his father John? They used the nice “yellow” 16-pound rock as a doorstop for three years until he decided to show it to a silversmith who had no idea what it was. Reed finally found a jeweler who saw it for what it was. Even when Reed knew he had gold, he was still clueless about its value and was ripped off by the jeweler who paid him $3.50 for it and sold it for $3,600. Reed got schooled, as they say, and fortunately found plenty more gold.

The Wittelsbach-Graff diamond has always been of great value but it was only worth a fourth of its current $80M value until 2008 despite having been used in both the Austrian and Bavarian Crown jewel sets. In a controversial move, Graff had the diamond cut by three diamond cutters to remove flaws (see the before-and-after difference HERE), but, in so doing, he extracted more worth than even royal families could provide and elevated the diamond from famous to legendary.

One of the most addictive shows on U.S. public television is “Antiques Road Show”. The premise of the entire show is that ordinary people may have extraordinarily valuable items. They just need the right audience, the expertly trained eyes, to tell them what their item is worth. Every episode has a story of someone who paid little to nothing for a belonging and finds out it is worth a fortune. (You can see the 10 most valuable HERE.)

As leaders, we ought to be developing an expertly trained eye for spotting non-physical treasures in others. Flattery and charm have their momentary usefulness. I never watch the Late Late Show with James Corden (actually, just had to look up his name). I caught a snippet of the show last night. That guy is a masterful flatterer. He makes people feel like rock stars (of course, some of his guests ARE rock stars). Watch him sometime and see how he connects with people. He is in his role for a reason. It’s easier to love popular people who already have credibility in their favor.

However, have you ever stopped to realize that you think you are better than other people? You do and so do I. I am not talking about discernment. Many smart people have made themselves very stupid from an over indulgence of the political correctness Kool-Aid. It sickens me sometimes to hear the ridiculous excuses offered for the bad behavior of our heroes or those we rush to slap a badge of victimhood on just so they don’t squeal.

I’m not talking about honestly labeling blatant irresponsibility. I mean that we think of people in a way that says,

“You are not worth my time.”

That is the culture of many businesses. There is nothing more soul-crushing than working for a boss, a company, or an organization that sees zero value in you as a person and employee. There is a tremendous amount of insecurity in some businesses (and families) and it shows in dishonorable actions, un-celebrated victories, a hyper-focus on “what is going wrong”, or complete disregard or lack of recognition for all but a few elite.

That is not the life of a conscious leader. Think about how rewarding it is to spot something of worth in another person they may not even see themselves or quit believing in a long time ago. Creating a culture of honor is a skill anyone can master. It takes development and self-training. It requires a level of thought and reflection that is higher than that of blame and mass consciousness. It takes intention and it is most effective when it is authentic. We might not admit it publicly but we like to be flattered. We can also smell BS. Saying meaningful things that shows someone you cherish them is uncommon but it has transformative power.

Be a treasure hunter. Take some time to dwell on the treasures others possess. Stop using the excuse that you are not good with words. I promise you someone near you desperately needs to know they matter. Give them some thought and tell them one thing about them you notice that no one else has ever said to them. If you don’t get the response you expected, I’ll give you back all the money you paid for this message.

Happy Hunting!

Rick Burris.

PS – The Life Leaders GPS has lessons set up to give you a simple framework to honor the key relationships of your life. Don’t wait for the funeral to express the value that others bring to your life.


Treasure 2 of 3

Treasure 2 of 3

Have you ever gone treasure hunting?

If looking for arrowheads (Native American artifacts) in the Flint Hills of Kansas, hunting for geodes on the banks of the Missouri River, and “gem mining” in the North Carolina mountains counts, then I have been treasure hunting.

Oh, and there is also river fodder in the Current River in Missouri. What is river fodder you ask? My best friend Russ lives 45 minutes from the Current River which is labeled a National Wild and Scenic River because it is not dammed, it is spring fed and crystal clear, and has rapids. Hundreds of thousands of people take day trips down the river each year in tubes and canoes, a great majority of whom are so intoxicated they have no business in a boat. When they hit the rapids, they tip over and lose their belongings in the water – river fodder.

One of my favorite activities in life is snorkeling. I could spend the entire day doing it and often have especially in the Current River. You can put on a mask and snorkel, get in the river and float for miles. Watching the fish and multi-colored gravel bottom of the river as you pass and having the sound of the water in your ears is mesmerizing. After a while, it is almost transcendental. Just when nirvana is approaching you spot something out-of-place, maybe a pair of sunglasses, a cooler, a shoe, a t shirt. You know the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. That mostly applies here, except on that rare occasion, when you find something of real value.

Over the past 25 years, Russ has probably spent more time on the Current River than 99 and 44/100 of the world population. When he is taking a break from his chiropractic practice, he is usually on the river with family and friends. He has pulled expensive sunglasses, several iPhones, knives by the bushel, cash, wallets, keys, a couple of guns, whole tackle boxes filled with fishing gear, plenty of fishing poles, lifejackets, paddles and even a canoe out of the river. He also found a diamond wedding ring and the tungsten wedding ring I wear from the Current River. Look for it on video or the next time you see me in person.

The real treasure is the time spent on the river with people you care about. If Russ decided to give up his practice and make his living off the treasures from the river, he would be a poor man indeed, and probably very lonely. (SEE CURRENT RIVER PICTURES HERE)

It’s the rare big finds that keep people on the hunt, but the numbers are not in favor of the hunter. Treasure finds its value in scarcity and discovering it comes at a cost.

For example, during the California Gold Rush (1849 – 1850?) nearly $2B US was extracted from the area. It is likely that 500,000 flocked to the Sutter’s Mill region during that era but one cannot deduce that each left $4,000 richer. Even with the comparative abundance of precious resources mined, the treasure only equated to wealth for the minority. The masses left penniless and probably broken in more ways than one.

I once took a group of boys to Reed Gold Mine in Midland, North Carolina, USA. It is the site of the first commercial gold mine in the US where, in 1799, Conrad Reed, son of farmer and former soldier, John Reed, found a 16-pound gold rock in the creek. It wasn’t the biggest chunk of gold found there. Some years later a slave named Peter found a 28-pound nugget there. The mine, now a historic site, has produced a tremendous amount of wealth. John Reed died a rich man but his treasure doesn’t make any of the 60,000 visitors each year any wealthier. In fact, when our group visited to do “gem mining”, our guide was speaking to us and suddenly pointed and cried out,

“What is that over there?”

While we turned our heads, she tossed gemstones in the creek behind us. We turned back and, imagine our luck, we found treasure in the creek just like Conrad!’

Of course, if you are already wealthy, you can buy treasure. If you have an extra $8M in your sock drawer you might consider the Flowing Hair Coin. Maybe a $30M diamond bikini is more your style. (It won’t cover much but people would remember your name.) If you are really interested in a splurge, you can try talking the Qatari royal family out of the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond. They got it from Graff in 2011 for a mere $80 million.

As we make our way back from Fantasy Island, there is a treasure purposefully hidden in the Rocky Mountains for any “Average Joe” treasure hunter to find. It was hidden by Forrest Fenn, an 86-year-old millionaire, former Vietnam fighter pilot, self-taught archaeologist, and successful art dealer in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you decide to go on the hunt, you are looking for an ornate, Romanesque box is 10-by-10 inches and weighs about 40 pounds when loaded. You will also need this poem with the nine clues from “The Thrill of the Chase,” Fenn’s self-published autobiography:


As I have gone alone in there

And with my treasures bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt

And take it in the canyon down,

Not far, but too far to walk.

Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is drawing ever nigh;

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

Look quickly down, your quest to cease

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak

So, hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth the cold.

If you are brave and in the wood

I give you title to the gold.

Happy hunting!

It looks like 300,000 people (and counting) have done their level best to follow the clues. It has become a full-time obsession for some and caused a 54-year-old retired mechanic to lose his life. But so far, the box of gold and precious gems, thought to be worth well over a million dollars, is yet to be found.

Common things that are readily obtained by the masses are not generally considered treasure. This counts especially for internal treasure, the kind that gives lasting value at the level of our character.

At some point in our life we all probably wish God would be like the genie in the bottle and grant our wishes. Fortunately for us, He does not. But what if God spoke to you and told you He would give you anything you want? What would you ask for? Per ancient texts, that is exactly the situation in which Solomon found himself. In a classic move, he asked for wisdom (and got a ton of cash thrown in).

Solomon was renowned for his wisdom. He is credited as the author of several Biblical books and some non-biblical ones. He is not alone among the thought giants of history in his counsel to seek treasures such as wisdom, knowledge, understanding, courage, temperance, and a good name. For example, he said,

“How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.”

Seeking non-financial treasures should not be confused as the antithesis of seeking financial (physical) treasure and one does not equal the cancellation of the other. Both are desirable because they afford us greater flexibility in life. They are also equal in their scarcity and difficulty in obtaining.

As Confucius said,

“By three methods we may learn wisdom, by reflection, which is the noblest, by imitation, which is the easiest, and by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Physical and non-physical treasure, however, are not of equal value or equal duration. It is helpful to remember that the non-physical treasures are the ones that cannot be taken away or corrupted.


Rick Burris


Treasure 1 of 3

Treasure 1 of 3

I began to muse on a topic and quickly realized that in my unfolding thoughts were more than I dare share in one day.

However, for the remainder of this week, I will be sharing on the topic of“treasure.” These thoughts stemmed from something I wrote about recently. I didn’t name it at the time but, I will call it “hyper-active humility”. Today let’s look at treasure on a personal level.

The history of the Golkonda diamond mines in southern India is a fascinating story most famously told in Russell Cornwell’’s speech Acres of Diamonds. It is the story of a Persian man named Ali Hafed. Here is an excerpt from the speech.

“Ali Hafed owned a very large farm; that he had orchards, grain-fields, and gardens; that he had money at interest and was a wealthy and contented man. One day there visited that old Persian farmer one of those ancient Buddhist priests, one of the wise men of the East.”

The priest told Ali Hafed a story of the origin of the world and described diamonds as “congealed drop of sunlight”.


The old priest told Ali Hafed that if he had one diamond the size of his thumb he could purchase the county, and if he had a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth. Ali Hafed heard all about diamonds, how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man. He had not lost anything, but he was poor because he was discontented, and discontented because he feared he was poor. He said, “I want a mine of diamonds,” and he lay awake all night. Early in the morning he sought out the priest. I know by experience that a priest is very cross when awakened early in the morning, and when he shook that old priest out of his dreams, Ali Hafed said to him:


“Will you tell me where I find diamonds?”


“Diamonds! What do you want with diamonds?”


“Why, I wish to be immensely rich.”


“Well, then, go along and find them. That is all you have to do; go and find them, and then you have them.”


“But I don’t know where to go.”


“Well, if you will find a river that runs through white sands, between high mountains, in those white sands you will always find diamonds.”


“I don’t believe there is any such river.”


“Oh yes, there are plenty of them. All you have to do is to go and find them, and then you have them.”


Said Ali Hafed, “I will go.”


So, he sold his farm, collected his money, left his family in charge of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds. He began his search, very properly to my mind, at the Mountains of the Moon. Afterward he came around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last when his money was all spent and he was in rags, wretchedness, and poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay at Barcelona, in Spain, when a great tidal wave came rolling in between the pillars of Hercules, and the poor, afflicted, suffering, dying man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.


The story continues.

The man who purchased Ali Hafed’s farm one day led his camel into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose into the shallow water of that garden brook, Ali Hafed’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the white sands of the stream. He pulled out a black stone having an eye of light reflecting all the hues of the rainbow. He took the pebble into the house and put it on the mantel which covers the central fires, and forgot all about it.

A few days later this same old priest came in to visit Ali Hafed’s successor, and the moment he opened that drawing-room door he saw that flash of light on the mantel, and he rushed up to it, and shouted:

“Here is a diamond! Has Ali Hafed returned?”

“Oh no, Ali Hafed has not returned, and that is not a diamond. That is nothing but a stone we found right out here in our own garden.”

“But,” said the priest, “I tell you I know a diamond when I see it. I know positively that is a diamond.”

Then together they rushed out into that old garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers, and lo! There came up other more beautiful and valuable gems then the first. “Thus,” said the guide to me (Cornwell), “was discovered the diamond-mine of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond-mine in all the history of mankind, excelling the Kimberly itself. The Kohinoor, and the Orloff of the crown jewels of England and Russia, the largest on earth, came from that mine.”

Cornwell’s speech itself was a diamond mine. (You can get the 30-page pdf of the speech HERE). He was paid to delivered that speech over 5,000 times and garnered enough resources by doing so to start Temple University. You could read this story and conclude that all Ali Hafed needed was a smarter camel. (tongue fully in cheek) I personally like it most because it appears to be more than urban legend which makes its lessons even more weighty.


Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”

Ali Hafed’s peril didn’t come from seeking outside his own garden. It came from losing his contentment with the treasure he already possessed (before one diamond was discovered).

I think sometimes our hyper-active humility can blind us from seeing the value (treasure) in ourselves and in others.

Think for a few moments, which is more true of you – celebrating what you have or regretting what you don’t have? Imagine a spectrum line. Put delight on the left end and regret on the right end. Do you live more in the delight end of the spectrum or the regret end? The question is one of default focus. Is your “go-to” view of yourself more of honor or shame?

If you haven’t taken advantage of the free tool and gotten your LIFE IMPACT SCORE©, do it today. CLICK HERE. One of the statements is,

“If my thoughts towards myself were played out loud, I would be proud of them.”

I can think of 5 things that give treasure (of any type) its trade value (usefulness).
• Its Origin
• Its Scarcity
• Its Cost of Discovery
• Its Brilliance
• Its Audience

I will finish with the first of these – the origin of treasure.

One of my favorite scripture verses says.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 New Living Translation (NLT)

This verse is describing the condition of the Christian. The light is Jesus. The jars are the body. The treasure is the gift(s). A person (not just those who profess to be Christian) can look at this scripture and focus on any or each part of it. If you pay attention when people talk about themselves, you might begin to think they only see the fragile jar. I sometimes wonder if this is a clever tactic for avoiding accountability, but more likely is a lack of focus on the origin of the treasure and thereby missing its value.

Whether a treasure is internal or external, its author or source of origin is part of what gives it merit. One of my favorite art galleries is Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas, USA (think WalMart heiress Alice B. Walton). If you breakdown the elements of what covers the walls, you get mostly very cheap materials, a pile of wood sticks, some dried up paint, and woven cotton fabric. But if you visit Crystal Bridges, you will have the privilege of standing inches away from the most valuable painting by a woman. It is Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1. the oversize (48″ by 40″) 1932 portrait of a flower. Simple sticks, cotton and paint but its artist renown made Mrs. Walton pay $44.4 million for it.

Until we see the treasure in ourselves, we will have a difficult time seeing the treasure in others and we will do more to build a culture of shame rather than a culture of honor in our homes, workplaces, and communities.

You are worth the investment of your growth. The gifts, talents and special abilities were placed in you for a purpose. They were made to be shared.


Rick Burris


PS What lessons do you draw from this? Fill in the blank. This is a great reminder of/to _______________. (Write me back and share your thoughts.)


Are You a Gremlin

Are You a Gremlin

Bugs Bunny is the best. I loved watching Looney Tunes growing up. Next to Popeye, Bugs Bunny was the coolest. He was the hero or antihero of every episode he was in save one -The Falling Hare (1943). In that episode, he was out foxed by a gremlin.

The term “gremlin” denoting a mischievous creature that sabotages aircraft, originates in Royal Air Force (RAF) slang in the 1920s among the British pilots stationed in Malta, the Middle East, and India, with the earliest recorded printed use being in a poem published in the journal Aeroplane in Malta on 10 April 1929.

The Falling Hare cartoon opens with Bugs reading about gremlins who commit, “die-a-ball-lick-al sab-o-ta-gee”. (diabolical sabotage). I like to use the term “gremlin” to describe one of the two voices inside. The Inner Gremlin is that nagging critical voice inside us that exists to protect the status quo. The opposing voice is the Inner Champion. The Inner Champion tells us more is possible.

I suggest that, from the first waking moments of the day, there are two voices inside us, The Inner Gremlin and the Inner Champion, that compete to see who is loudest. They show themselves in the messages we tell ourselves what kind of day we will have. It is like we have our hands on two separate volume dials and we choose to turn up either the Inner Gremlin or the Inner Champion.

The gremlin is a bully that stands guard at the edge of our comfort zone and sabotages success. It predicts the worst thing will happen if we try something new. It has a hyper negative focus in its effort to maintain life as we know it. The problem with this inner critic is that sometimes it is right, or at least helpful, as the saying goes,

“a broken clock gives the correct time twice a day.”

Most of us where raised on Gremlin messages which were meant for our good.

“Don’t touch that!”
“Watch your fingers.”
“Slow down, you’re going to fall.”
“Be careful. You might get hurt.”

Gremlin messages serve their purpose when we are young, but they get in the way and confuse us about our true potential. When we have the volume of the Inner Gremlin turned up too high, we can get stuck, or even go backwards, and we miss out on joy that is readily available to us.

I know you can relate to what I am saying. It’s easy to see isn’t it, how much our inner dialogue influences our experience. My question for today is,

“Are you being a gremlin to anyone else?”

“Are you the border bully for anyone’s dream? Your spouse? Your kids? Your neighbors? Your co-workers/employees?”

It can be so easy to be a gremlin, especially with our children. I remember those days when our boys were learning to walk. There were periods of my kids development where I held my breath a lot. You know that gasp you make when you think someone is about to get hurt. I can still see their little heads wobbling back and forth right near the corner of the coffee table as the y tried to stand up. Funnily enough I got caught in gremlin mode with my oldest just a couple of weeks ago at the dojo. Micah, who is certainly way past the toddler age, was my partner. We were practicing a judo throw that is similar to a headlock where you take your opponent over your back and to the ground in front of you. Every time I threw Micah, I was cradling his head as he fell. The problem with that is that it impeded him from doing a proper fall. In my reflex to protect him, I was actually getting in his way. After a few times through he said,

“You keep doing the dad-catch. You need to let me fall on my own.”

Fair enough.

When you grow. It makes people uncomfortable. It shines the light on some of their own dark places and unaware people can go into attack mode when that happens. It’s more of a reflex than a response. Family members or fellow addicts can be the most vicious in their reaction. I am certain you can think of several examples of this from your own life or the experiences of others. But back to the question of the day, can you recognize where you might be getting in the way of someone else’s growth?

If so, why not see how you can throw open the gates and be a champion for others this week.


Rick Burris

PS – Like Bugs Bunny’s gremlin, our gremlin has a plethora of tactics for sabotage. In the Silence the Gremlin lesson of the Life Leaders GPS, I cover this thoroughly and provide a Success Implementation Guide to help you quiet the barking dogs.


Fantasy v Imagination

Fantasy v Imagination

The first time I went through the book the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership as a part of the John Maxwell team, it was led by one of the six members of the teaching team, Scott Fay. Scott has a great story of business and life success. He is a landscaper by trade but was always a personal development aficionado at heart. As he kept growing as a person, so did his company. Several companies and several million dollars later, he found himself in the personal development business as a member of the teaching team.

We went through the book one chapter each week and got on a conference call with people from around the globe as Scott facilitated the teaching. He would start talking about one of the 21 Laws and nearly every week he would say,

“This is one of my favorite laws because…”

I know how he feels. Sometimes you read material that is life-building and it goes to your head only. You give intellectual ascent to it in that moment but it doesn’t feel earth-shattering. Then you can read that same material at another place and time and it grabs ahold of you and won’t let go until you yield to its power in your life. Scripture reading is the best example of this for me. There are some verses I may have read a hundred times without anything registering on the seismograph. Then one day I read that verse and the Richter Magnitude Scale spikes.

I will admit to you that there are some lessons of the Life Leaders GPS may be that same way. I have put each lesson in the course because I know first-hand how it fits within the process of transformation. But there is one in particular that grips me – Silencing the Gremlin.


In this lesson, I am labeling the negative self-talk to which we are all prone, as Gremlins. Gremlins are creatures of sabotage. Most Gremlins are internal but some are external. The saliency of this particular lesson is that it immediately slides the tectonic plates of hyper-criticism and self-sabotaging nonsense that we have allowed to be the basis of desperation and disappointment, that we somehow believe we deserve and it makes way for dreams and a mindset of abundance. (You might want to read that sentence again.)

Picture a blank white sheet of paper in your mind. Now start at the lower left corner and trace a line from there to the upper right corner making an uphill slope on your paper. Now picture yourself as a hiker on the page. You are either going uphill or downhill. You didn’t start at the top. You started at the bottom. The bottom is familiar and it may feel safe but the worthwhile things and the better view are uphill.

Abraham Maslow said,

“One can either step forward (uphill) into growth or backward (downhill) into safety.”

Gremlins exist to protect the comfort zone and maintain the status quo. They are imaginary barking dogs whose mouths need to be shut. If we allow it, these imaginary creatures will run our lives straight back downhill. Like Carl Jung said,

“Until we make the subconscious conscious, it will rule our lives and we will call it fate.”

Unless we put criticism (especially self-criticism) in its proper place, we are only fantasizing a better life and not imagining it. Read carefully through these definitions and see the important differences below and give it some thought.


Rick Burris

the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.

the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
synonyms: creative power, fancy, vision; informal mind’s eye
interest, fascination, attention, passion, curiosity
the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.
synonyms: creativity, imaginativeness, creativeness;
vision, inspiration, inventiveness, invention, resourcefulness, ingenuity;
originality, innovation, innovativeness
the part of the mind that imagines things.


Feeling Groovy

Feeling Groovy

My Aikido lead instructor, Shihan Beckham, always begins class with words of wisdom. They are applicable to each practice and they are applicable to life outside the dojo. The word for last night was “adagio”. We did an hour and forty-five minutes of last night’s two-hour class adagio. We slowed everything down to be certain we were getting the basics correct. As Mr. Beckham was explaining our approach to the class, I thought how ironic, but precisely true, that sometimes we need to slow down to catch up.

I like that scene in the Matrix where NEO suddenly realizes he can see everything in slow motion. It changes everything. His life moves instantly from the effect end to the cause end. In slow motion, he sees everything coming and blocks the nonsense away almost with a yawn. He then moves from the receiving end of blows to the giving end and his strikes are much more precise and effective. When we are not intentional, we tend to be more like the pre-slow-motion NEO. Confused, hapless and taking a lot more blows than we are giving. We run behind and get overwhelmed. It is easy to feel like life is something happening TO US when we move too fast. What we fail to grasp is that we are predominately creating this dynamic by lack of thinking INTO our actions.

Here are some simple ways we can slow things down and build margins in our day to stay caught up. (Before I begin, let me say parenthetically that I do recognize that there are periods of our life where much of our time IS dictated by someone else’s demands or needs. If you suspect you are in one of those periods, keep reading, there is value here for you.)

10 (11) Ways to Slow Down to Catch Up

1. Put God First. Try asking God for help with the important basics. Meditative prayer naturally and supernaturally puts you in an intentional state of mind. It causes you to think differently than your “on-the-go” default. Then your “on-the-go” prayers become reminders to stay on track. Have you ever thought about prayer being mostly about reminding yourself what is important? I am not saying God is inactive. I am saying it is possible that prayers are asking God to do something but also lining ourselves up with what we already think he wants.

  1. Prioritize Your Life. Understanding your life purpose is important. All too often we are busy being busy and we lose our focus on why we do certain activities. Not all activity is of equal value. We have to continually check ourselves to be sure we are keeping the main thing the main thing. If our desires don’t match what we know our priorities ought to be, we can drift into doing mostly what we want and lose the time we should have spent on other priorities. This is where the spiral begins that makes us feel like we are chasing life to get caught up.
  2. Get Rid of Clutter.Your car, your kitchen, your living room, your bedroom, your inbox, your office/desk, your mind. Any clutter there? Are you sure? I have met a few people who do operate at high levels with clutter, but my experience has been that most of the people I have met (including myself too often) who coexist with clutter, are behind. I am not talking about intelligence or potential. I am talking about effectiveness.
  3. Stop Unnecessary Time Wasters. We live in a world that begs our brains to be overly entertained and our own biology (hormones) works against us when it comes to “vegging” out and compulsively wasting time with electronic devices and social media. We all know better. We just need to do tangible steps to do better. What can you do to minimize time-wasting distractions that get your behind?
  4. Drive Smarter. Do you commute? Find something that contributes to your personal development during your daily commute. HINT: You are not likely to find it on the radio.
  5. Schedule Margins. Sometimes we forget that we are at the helm of our calendars. Even if a large portion of our schedule is fixed by forces outside of our control, we can look for spaces to create buffers.
  6. Do the Most Necessary Work First. I don’t know about you, but I am extremely geared towards task completion. It serves me well much of the time but my challenge is to stop working on a certain project, let it wait, and get going on the thing that keeps the lights on in my house.
  7. Don’t Say Yes to Everything. Someone is reading this and shaking their head. Your time is your life. YES! You can say, “NO!” and the Earth will stay in its orbit.
  8. Schedule Down Time. I have a confession to make. I take a power nap almost every afternoon. It happens after I pick up my youngest son from school. We drive to a parking area and wait for my older son to get out of school. I have often wondered if other parents in the same parking area look over and think,“What a loser!”I would be okay with that because what they don’t know is that I am up at 4am every morning (3am today) working. I have intentionally structured my days to maximize my time with my boys and I have zero guilt that 15-20 minutes of that time is me snoring in the car seat next to my son. That time is paid for and contributes to my overall health.
  9. Evaluate Your Schedule Often. Plans should not be implemented and then ignored. Calibrate often to stay aware of your goals.

#11 BONUS: Take 1:50 minutes and watch THIS VIDEO. It will leave you feeling groovy, especially watching Art Garfunkle’s face.

One of the primary benefits of the Life Leaders GPS is the opportunity it offers to push the pause button on life and be sure the life you are living is the one you want, the one you really want. There is one lesson in particular designed to help you master today’s topic – Take Your Brain Back. This message skips the rock across the top of that pond. We are co-creating our lives every day. Let’s make the most of it.


Rick Burris


Wrestling with Pigs

Wrestling with Pigs

George Bernard Shaw said,

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

When I read that quote, I think about politics, especially office politics. If we muse a bit on Shaw’s quote, we find these elements: Experience, Choice, Pig Pen, Motivation / Goals, and Pigs.

Everyone gets dirty, but everyone doesn’t learn not to get dirty. Sometimes, getting dirty brings quick lessons and can be like touching a hot stove – an instance of pain that says,

“Self, never do that again.”

Other times it takes a while to recognize how dirty you have gotten. There is an allure to a good fight especially when we feel challenged. Shaw didn’t say he no longer wrestled. However, he figured out that doing so with pigs is futile.

Disagreeing with others is part of our DNA. Differences of opinion can be very vital to success and growth. As the saying goes,

“Steel sharpens steel.”

Here is a hack to know if you are wrestling with a pig. It is a convenient distinction between “conflict” and “controversy”.

With “conflict” you have a disagreement but work together for an agreeable outcome.

With “controversy” you have a disagreement and you try to get your side to dominate and other sides to be destroyed.

If you break down the words, “controversy” is to turn against, and “conflict” is to strike together.

With a bit of experience, you can spot the ones who have no interest in healthy discussion, debate or disagreement. They just want to be at the top of the hierarchy no matter how they get there.

It is unfortunate that some never rise above a pig’s level of awareness and realize they have a choice.
Actress and author Portia Nelson wrote this great piece that demonstrates how one typically discovers the freedom to choose.

“I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost… I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes me a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in. It’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault. I get out immediately.


walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.”

We have a choice. We don’t have to take the bait.

Pig Pen
Pigs wrestle in the pig pen. Sometimes the pig lures us into their own private pen. Other times, the whole office environment is a pig pen. The trick is to recognize you are in a pig pen. It may be unrealistic to make the choice to leave the pen immediately, but honesty is a good place to start.

Motivation / Goals
There is no more important element to a life of legacy-building success than to develop at the level of our character. Pigs have no lack of goals but their lives are cyclical. They may go uphill with their career, but downhill with their character.

Don’t be the pig.


Rick Burris


Galvanized v Polarized

Galvanized v Polarized

My friend Brian was sharing about a relationship he has with a gentleman whose life is very different from his own. They grew up in different countries and have been raised with lifestyles and faith practices that are quite dissimilar. Brian owns a motorcycle shop and explained that another gentleman comes in his shop who has a habit of making unprovoked and aggressively negative comments about all people of faith. However, together, the three of them enjoy motorcycle riding.

Shortly after Brian spoke I listened to a woman who is on furlough from her Christian missionary duties in another country. She described the church with which she is associated that consists of expatriates from several different countries. Part of what she explained was the multi-cultural, multi-national aspect of their services. For example, to be relevant to all the members they sing songs in three to four different languages. But there is a deeper level of interaction that is taking place and it is frighteningly uncommon. Every person involved has been willing to challenge the conditioning of their upbringing, some to the risk of complete ostracizing by their families. She said they have a saying,

“Comparison kills communities.”

These two instances, along with the sermon that followed, caused me to think of the typical response of polarization we are prone to when we encounter someone with values different from our own. We live in times when polarization is the norm. Where most spend their entire existence at a tribal level of awareness.

It is normal to gravitate towards others who are like us. Part of what makes us healthy as humans is having consistent stability which normally takes place among our own kind (although, it doesn’t have to). But the danger of the tribal consciousness is in being programmed not to think. One of the result of this can be in taking a wholesale approach to our view of those “outside” of our value system.

Look at the definition of “polarization”. It means


to restrict the vibrations to one direction.


When it comes to human relationships, I suspect this means I am less defined by what I am, and more defined myself by what I am not. What I am saying is that if I am unwilling to think independently and challenge my most cherished beliefs, I probably don’t really know what I value or why I believe what I do. I am mostly operating at a level of self-preservation. My interactions with those unlike me are more of a foray which, by definition, is


a sudden attack or incursion into enemy territory, especially to obtain something; a raid.

I am not suggesting it is wrong to believe in something with great conviction. I am suggesting that rather than being polarized, we can choose to be galvanized which is not a passive thing and may not seem like the opposite of being polarized. If we are galvanized or galvanizing, we may not be popular according to the definition of the word


– shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action.


That doesn’t sound like leaving others neutral. But if you look at the second part of the definition it says


coated with a protective layer. 


When you are speaking of iron or steel the coating is a layer of zinc. From a personal standpoint. I suggest it means you have taken time to shake your values and beliefs through the sifter and you are certain that they are yours and not just what has been fed to you. You have weighed them against what you understand to be eternally true. And finally, you know that you know that your circumstances or other people do not dictate them for you and they cannot take them from you. Then, I would say you are galvanized.

Here is a short list of outcomes you might experience by virtue of beinggalvanized versus being polarized.

• If you are polarized, you are stuck on one side.
• If you are galvanized, you are free to move throughout the territory.
• If you are polarized, you see the same thing.
• If you are galvanized, you enjoy variety.
• Polarity decreases. Galvanization increases.
• If you are polarized, different is the enemy.
• If you are galvanized, you are free to enjoy the beauty of each person’s story.

What else could you add to this list? Why not write back and tell me? I would love to hear from you.

Do you know where your values come from?

Roy Disney said,

“When your values are clear, decisions are easier.”


Rick Burris


Slow is Confident

Slow is Confident

“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

Here is what happened. Kate was working Saturday, so the boys and I decided to head out for a drive through the mountains in North Carolina. We made the drive up Highway 276 and stopped in the mountain town of Brevard for a walk around. Then lunch at our favorite hot dog stand at the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest. Micah was behind the wheel as we headed north on the narrow and winding road through the park.

It was a typical busy Saturday in the National Forest, plenty of cars, motorcycles, campers, fellow sight seers and even bicycles on the 50MPH road. One more thing. No shoulder. My friend Ron, an avid long-distance biker knows all about sharing the road with cars. My son Micah got his first experience at sharing the road with bicycles. No one was hurt, but it was a great “learning experience”.

I had just mentioned to Micah that he needed to slow down as he was approaching a slowing line of cars. In a few seconds we realized the slowing was for a mountain bike in our lane. Each driver had to time their passing of the bike just right to avoid the stream of oncoming traffic. When Micah’s turn came, he followed the example of the vehicle in front of him and sped up instead of slowing down.

Unfortunately, this was timed at the same moment of an oncoming car – a sheriff’s car. The officer’s alertness averted a collision but just around the bicycle traffic was at a complete halt. No sooner had Micah stopped, that the same officer was now behind us with his lights flashing. After a well-deserved verbal reprimand (no ticket!), we were back on our way.

However, the drama was not finished. Back on the road, Micah began drifting slightly off the road each time an oncoming car approach. Here is where the learning comes in and I bet you think it was learning for Micah. Well, it was a bit, and trust me when I tell you that Micah was a quick study. But the lesson was for me mostly and perhaps you can relate.

Slow is confident.

I would love to tell you that I displayed extreme emotional control throughout this experience and that I handled the whole thing like a champ. I did NOT. I let some phrases fly that would make a sailor blush and it wasn’t helping anyone. You really don’t want me to repeat what came out. Not the kind of talk that makes a mother proud.

Once I calmed down. I helped Micah understand that no matter what the speed limit said, even under the speed limit, he was driving too fast to remain confident and inspire confidence in his passengers. He got it and responded well, but the person that really needed to slow down was me. Micah’s driving was not the thing that took me to the panic zone. That was my own decision. I had a choice to slow my mind down. Tires coming off the road when there is no respectable shoulder is dangerous, but I chose to go to DEFCON 4 emotionally. I let my emotions speed up and handed off my confidence to fear.
Does that ever happen to you too? Come on! Admit it.

All of this was a great reminder of the unwavering process of learning. Taking on new skills, including higher degrees of emotional intelligence, goes from our conscious mind first and then to our subconscious mind. Micah will soon handle busy mountain roads like a pro. He just needs a few trips of extra slow driving to allow time for the skills and situational awareness to make its way into his subconscious mind.

We see this in the dojo all the time. The techniques we are learning are design to cause pain and even injury. By executing them slowly many, many times we maintain control and each person remains confident that we are in a safe space for learning and skill development. From time to time we/I try to go too fast and the execution gets sloppy.


Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Slow is confident and eventually fast becomes confident too.


As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way,


“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do. Not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our ability to do has increased.”


Does this make you think of any area of your life in which you need to slow down and regain your confidence? I would love to hear about it.


Rick Burris


The Wisdom of Emotions

The Wisdom of Emotions

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” — Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ

I’m not sure about you, but I am more aware all the time about my need to increase my emotional intelligence. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to realize this, but it sure has helped me to understand how some emotional patterns and habits in my life have served me well and how others get in my way big time.

Lack of emotional intelligence can be costly. The Center for Creative Leadership says,

“75 percent of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle interpersonal problems; unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.”

However, if we get curious about our emotions, viewing them as neither good nor bad, but rather our expression of them as either appropriate and helpful or destructive and dysfunctional, what, then can we learn from them? Here are a few possibilities of the information that lies beneath our five core emotions.

Anger can tell us a goal is blocked. It can tell us something is no longer of service to us. Something is not aligned and must be changed or removed so that something more beneficial can take its place. It may be telling us a boundary needs to be set or that a boundary has been violated.

Fear tells us something important needs to be known. Something is not being faced. Without access to fear we may be living in denial of reality. Fear tells us something new wants to be learned and awareness is required.

Sadness tells us something needs to be let go of, said goodbye to or, moved on from. Sadness is the energy of loss. Something once useful and meaningful is going away.

Joy tells us something needs to be appreciated, celebrated, or laughed at. It tells us someone needs to be patted on the back.

Sexual feelings tell us something new needs to come into the world. It is the energy of creativity which is not the same as lust. It is a flow of life force. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, labeled harnessing the creativity of sexual feelings as transmutation. Superior leaders know how to have sexual feelings in a way that is respectful to themselves and everyone else. They use sexual energy to create and give life to their organization.

To increase your emotional awareness, stop periodically and ask yourself these questions.

  • What am I feeling right now? (Answer with one of the five core emotions. Don’t analyze it. Simply label it.)
  • Check your body. Where are the feelings located? What are the bits doing?
  • What is this trying to tell me?
  • How can I release it completely and learn from it quickly?

I will leave you with a quote from International Behavior Specialist, Mavis Mazhura,

“Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way.” 


Rick Burris


Down in the Valley

Down in the Valley

In my therapeutic wilderness camping days, there was a song we often sang called, Down in the Valley, a traditional country-blues American folk song. Like most folk songs, the lyrics vary depending on the singer. In all the times, I sang it, I never knew it was also called the “Birmingham Jail” song since our version didn’t mention one word about Birmingham or Jail. All I ever pictured was a lovesick dude wanting to know if his ‘girl’ loved him.

Being “in the valley” is synonymous with a lack of clarity and assuredness. When you are in the valley, all you see is the valley and the mountains you must climb. We are longing for three things, security, approval, and control. Any experienced leader knows that life is filled with mountaintop moments and mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical valleys. Here are three recommendations I will make about valleys.

Know Where You Are
For motivational books, does it get any better than Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!? The same book, beckons you to your own mountaintop,

“Your mountain is waiting so get on your way!”

while being very clear that valleys are a part of the journey,

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. but mostly they’re darked.”

Self-Awareness is one of four key predictors of success. (As for the other three, it will be another message for another day.) The first step is awareness. The other two pieces of valley know-how depend on it.

Don’t Pitch a Tent
It’s no wonder that so many choose to have the 23rd Psalm read at their funeral. There is great comfort in knowing you were/are not alone in the path of life especially in times of trouble and darkness. There is something about darkness that heightens your awareness of the unseen and the Unseen. I have been amazed to listen to cancer survivors who describe their battle with cancer as that time in which they felt the closest to God. But there is another key take away from the text. Keep moving. The mountaintop is the place to pause and enjoy the view. The valley is just the passage way. Being in a valley is not as important as being aware of when you are in a valley. Know where you are so you know to make a shift.

Hold the Important Decisions
Back when I was called “Chief” Rick, (another therapeutic camping reference) my boss was “Chief” Paul Daley. I don’t know how many times I heard him utter this phrase when counseling a boy who was having an emotional outburst.

“Don’t trust your negative emotions!”

The camp and the whole program was built for emotionally-troubled boys, so it was not uncommon to see boys make very bad decisions while in a very low state of emotional resourcefulness. Ever experience that yourself? It is interesting how our perceived lack of security, approval and control can drive short-sighted decision making that doesn’t take us to a better place.

On the mountaintop, we get the bigger picture. We see the whole view more clearly and we are operating at higher levels of thought. This is the place to make big decisions.

Keep climbing my friends!


Rick Burris


Sleeping In a Storm

Sleeping In a Storm

Waking up to a thunderstorm reminded me of a devotional story told by Rabbi Albert Lewis called “I Can Sleep Through a Storm”. You can get a copy in the resource tab if you want to use it, but it is about a handyman named Bill Jeffers who makes an inquiry to a farmer about his job posting and says his qualification is that he can sleep through a storm. He gets the job, lo and behold a storm comes up and sure enough this guy is found sleeping by the worried farmer. That is until the farmer learns that Jeffers had prepared ahead of time and all was well with the farm.

Other people, like me, have to learn the hard way. You may have noticed that I write, occasionally, about therapeutic wilderness camping. That is because the eight years I spent there has left me with several valuable lessons. One of those came in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. Let me explain.

First you have to know a few details about the campsites. The camp is a 900-acre pine forest. There are a handful of permanent buildings, an office, a dining hall, a warehouse, and several houses for staff. Spread over the property are five small-group campsites. Every structure in the campsites are designed, built and maintained by the member of the group. It is the maintained part of that last sentence where this story originates. More accurately, it was the lack of maintenance.

Each campsite has four sleeping shelters. One is for the staff (the “chiefs”) and the other three for the campers. These structures are made using the pine trees. Trees (poles) are cut, debranched, debarked, and used for construction. There are upright poles (vertical) and side rails and ridgepoles. (Horizontal). Smaller diameter poles are used for the roof. The side rails and ridge poles are attached to the upright poles using a brace and bit tool (hand powered drill) to drill a hole and pounding a wooden dowel in the hole using a handmade wooden mallet. The roof poles are lashed to the tent using binders twine. The roof and the sides of the tent are covered with a grommeted polyvinyl tarp. (always yellow for some reason) The roof tarps are tied on using binders twine. This is the first thing to wear out. A wise group checks the binders twine regularly to prevent what happened to me.


There I am sleeping soundly in my tent. It was a late winter night, still cold and I was snuggled under eight pounds (literally) of covers. Storms make great background noise when you are sleeping in the woods in a cozy tent like this. Except when you haven’t noticed that the binders twine holding your roof tarp in place has stretched and rotted. In my slumber, I did not know that my loosened roof tarp was collecting water in what we called a cow belly. Directly above my head was a cow belly filled with what had to be ten gallons of water.


Just when my dream was getting good, the binders twine gave way and dropped that water directly on my head. The now freed tarp caught the storm winds like a sail. In rapid cognition, my eyes flew wide open expecting to see a prankster holding a bucket silhouetted in a yellow tarp. Instead, I saw an angry sky and a massive tarp flapping violently in the wind trying to break free of its remaining tethers. I instinctively jumped out of bed and wrestled an edge of the tarp back to the rooftop. It was a savage tug-of-war. I gained ground and then lost it. It felt like the billowing tarp was going to take me airborne while the near corner was slapping me in the head.

Finally, by jumping on my soaked bed, I got high enough to have the leverage to grapple the tarp to the rooftop. So, there I am soaking wet, shivering in my boxers, and still being jerked back and forth with every gust of wind and I realize. I have no way to tie this tarp down. I wasn’t getting any drier or warmer. I had to admit temporary defeat. I let go of the tarp, jumped off my bed and ran through the storm to the commissary tent and grabbed the binders twine box. Meanwhile, everything in my tent was getting more soaked by the second. I ran back, threw some clothes on and made sure I had my knife.

I measured off about 20 arm lengths of twine, cut it off and doubled it over. The wrestling match with the tarp was on again but this time I brought a knife to the tarp fight. With the corner of the tarp in one hand and the tail of the twine hanging from my teeth, I looped the twine through the corner grommet. Now I had a leash to wrangle the tarp down and tie it off at the corner of the tent.

The rest of my night consisted of tying off the remaining grommets, starting a fire in the potbelly stove and parading sleeping bags and clothing in front of the stove to get them as dry as possible before the sun came up to start the day.

I read a quote recently by an unknown author that said,

“While most are dreaming of success, winners wake up and work hard to achieve it.” 

I say a failure to check the twine and 10 gallons of water makes for great motivation for hard work. At least, it did for me.

What is your intuition telling you? Any “binders twine” in your life need replacing? We all might sleep better by paying attention to the little things.


Warmly (and dry-ly),


Rick Burris


Stop Being Shelfish

Stop Being Shelfish

Today’s post is short to make a point.

While I didn’t express it in these words exactly, in a previous message I wrote how the circumstances surrounding the timing of me becoming an executive director of Camp Classen showed me the importance of making data-driven decisions. Let’s look at the other end of the decision-making spectrum. We find there a cognitive bias (perceptual distortion) known as the information bias, or as I like to call it, shelf-development.

Shelf-development is a natural tendency to seek more information than we need. This cognitive bias can be especially dangerous in our times, when the easy availability of information on the Internet can lead to information overload. Because of the information bias, for instance, we may be tempted to read as many self-help books and articles as possible about a particular personal problem we are facing, thinking that the more information we have, the more prepared we will be to deal with it. At this level of awareness, we spend a lot of time and energy building up a library of books, articles, etc. that we were really excited to add to our collection but the needle of our self-development doesn’t moved a fraction.

Oftentimes, our predictions, as well as our actions, can be more accurate and more decisive when they are based on less information. In other words, it may be more beneficial for us, as well as for those around us, if we actually act based on the self-help materials we already have rather than hear the same advice repeated over and over again in a different form. The urge to consume information can itself be a way to delay taking decisive, life-changing action.

This is exactly why the Life Leaders GPS course is action based. It does contain valuable information but I make it very clear that the potential is NOT in the tool. It is in the participant. The course is based on the unwavering belief that transformation does not happen through information gathering but happens experientially. People who just want someone to tell them what to do will be sorely disappointed, but the brave ones who engage in the process reap the rewards.

Sometimes the right question isn’t “What should I do?” The better question is, “What do I need to stop doing?” One key thing might be to stop going around the mountain of personal growth.

Stop being “shelf”ish.




Rick Burris


Quick Self-Check

Quick Self-Check

Here is a quick self-check. (Tools like these should always be approached from the perspective of self-awareness, never for self-judgment.)

When you look back on the past twelve months, can you identify and describe evidence of personal growth?

Any life events and or milestones you have celebrated?

What is your greatest accomplishment in the past 12 months?

Have there been any changes in you that have fascinated or pleasantly surprised your family, friends, or co-workers?

What have you learned?

Which books have you read? (Any you would recommend?)

What skills have you improved?

Is there anything improved about the way you think?

Is there anything better about the way you use your time or are you just busy being busy?

Any starts and stops? What are you staying committed to?

  • Exercise routines
  • Nutrition habits
  • Books
  • Personal growth tools
  • Home improvement projects

Is there anyone you owe a phone call to?

Is there anything better about your financial picture or the way you view money?

If you are being honest, have you mostly coasted through life in the past 12 months, hit the brakes, or stepped on the gas?

Do you have any more clarity of your passions, values, and life purpose than you did one year ago?


I know you didn’t ask for this tool, but why not copy and paste these questions into a document, type your answers and take 5 minutes to reflect on it?


Rick Burris




“A life isn’t significant except for its impact on others.” Jackie Robinson


Hello Friend,

Quick! What is the significance of April 15? Nope. Not U.S. Tax Day. It is the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut in 1947 and since 2004 Major League Baseball has celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on that day each year. It is a good thing they did because the Hall-of-Famer’s off-field legacy is so incredible, we might forget that he happened to also be an amazing baseball player once upon a time.

Leadership is the application of influence. Some people ooze influence. Have you ever been around anyone like that? For me, a Marine Major General comes to mind. Every time I speak with him there is an ever-present sense that he has impacted countless lives. Jackie Robinson was that way. Imagine living your life in such a manner that a movie is made of your life story 22 years before you die? The movie 42 was terrific. But it wasn’t the first Jackie Robinson movie. In 1950, The Jackie Robinson Story, in which Jackie Robinson starred, was released and a colorized version is now available on Amazon Prime.

Have a look at this excerpt from Becoming a Person of Influence.

Brad Herzog, author of The Sports 100, has identified Jackie Robinson as the most influential person in American sports history.

“First there are those who have changed the way the game is played…Then there are those men and women whose presence and performance forever altered the sporting scene in a fundamental manner…And, finally, there are the handful of sports figures whose influence transcended the playing fields and impacted American culture…Robinson, to a greater extent that anyone else, was all three types in one.”

I think perhaps the greatest measure of Jackie Robinson’s influence is found in the family he left behind. The best thing he ever did was marry Rachel Annetta Isum. At 94, Rachel is still going strong as a person of significance. She has influenced the world as the wife of one the greatest players of all time, as a nurse and professor, as a real estate developer, as a philanthropist and founder of a non-profit, as an author, and most especially as a parent.

In the year before Jackie’s death, Rachel and Jackie suffered the loss of their 24-year-old son Jackie, Jr. in a one-car accident. However, the echo of Jackie and Rachel’s influence is still seen and heard loud and clear in their daughter Sharon and youngest son David.

Sharon was a nurse-midwife for 20 years before becoming an acclaimed author who has reached millions. You can see more of her story HERE and HERE. David traded New York City life to be the owner of a coffee plantation in Bara Village, Tanzania in 1981 and never looked back. There is a terrific article about him HERE.

It was Jackie Robinson’s intention to be respected as a human being. It is well known that he encountered hatred from The Ignorants during his life, but his influence with his own family and millions of others is nothing short of royal.


Rick Burris


When Biases Bite

When Biases Bite

“This will be the topic of your next email.” Michael Barravecchio

Those were the last words of my coach as we finished our call yesterday. He was right. I am sure you have heard of cognitive biases before. As Forest Gump might say, there are about a “gozillion” of them. Reading through the list of them is about like listening to Forest describe all the different ways to prepare shrimp.

One of them has me pegged. Before I learned the official moniker, I would have called it the “This is going to be a slam dunk” bias. In 1979, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky first proposed it as the Planning Fallacy Bias. It is basically the tendency to grossly underestimate how long a task will take to complete. It also includes the tendency to underestimate the cost of a task. Yep, got that too.

No one in the house knows where the nozzle to the kitchen sink faucet went. Perhaps, there was an occasion when it was more than potato skins that were clogging up the disposal and we just persisted with the grinding until everything flushed down. For a while we were fine without it, but Sunday a new faucet-phenomena began. The water coming out was spraying in all directions and not all of it was making its way into the basin.

So, after dropping the boys off for school, I made Trip #1 one to Lowes. This is where the bias began. I would walk in, grab a new faucet, checkout and be on my way. The hardest part would be moving all the items from under the sink so I could disconnect the current faucet and all of its hoses and easily set the new faucet. How hard could it be?


The good news is I have another bias. The Unit Bias means you don’t stop until a task is finished. I definitely have that one. It can payoff but also has a dark side, like feeling like you always have to finish all the food on your plate. The other good news is that I was able to get out of bed this morning. Normally, that’s not a concern, but let me see if I can adequately describe the position my body was in for a large portion of yesterday. You probably guessed lying on my back. But with my mid-spine bent nearly 90 degrees backwards over the bottom of the cabinet. Thus, causing my hips to be four inches lower than my shoulder blades. I might be considered a broad-shouldered person. Even if I was narrower in stature, I still would have needed to contort my upper body to fit under the sink. By mid-afternoon I got the pattern down. Sit on the floor with my back to the sink. Do a half-situp and roll left while extending my right arm above my head to snake my right armpit around the back of the vertical board separating the two cabinet doors. Tuck my chin to my right collarbone and roll right to wedge my left shoulder under the sink. Then bend my left arm at the elbow to pin the back of my hand to my left shoulder giving it just enough space to fit around the drain pipe so I could work with both hands.

To make access easier, I removed the pipe that runs horizontally from the garbage disposal to the main drain line which meant my left ear would sit directly beside the now uncovered drain hole. That made for entertaining smells while I worked. I did get the water shut off before I started but most of the lines dripped their remnant water onto the floor of the cabinet. I mopped up some with a towel but the rest made a nice puddle for my head to lay in while I worked. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the disposal drippings weren’t mixed in.

Things got really interesting when I first attempted to remove the old faucet. Since I couldn’t see how it was attached, I snapped a couple of iPhone shots to reveal the corroded nut that was the final piece to remove. By process of elimination, I learned that none of my wrenches would either fit in the space or make the nut budge. A couple of YouTube videos later I discovered there is a wrench specially designed for this job – a basin wrench.

I had to go back out to take Jonah to his Noon orthodontist appointment. I would make stop #2 at Lowes and get one. My t shirt was soaked and so was the back of my head. With no running water, I had to towel off and throw on another shirt. Long story short, I now own a basin wrench if anyone needs to borrow it.

Back under the sink, not even the new wrench made the old nut budge. I was hoping not to need the WD-40 because I knew that once I sprayed it I would have it dripping in my face. The nut had to come off so I took one for the team. Success. The nut was off and so was the old faucet. My slam dunk was about to happen just as I expected it would several hours ago. Then new parts fit in place nicely. Fewer foul words were now proceeding from my lips until I realized that the new faucet hoses were not long enough to reach the hot and cold water lines.

Trip #3 to Lowes while picking up the boys, a few more rounds of contortion and “Tah-Dah!” we have a new faucet.

I knew that would be simple.




Rick Burris




Following up on my commitment from yesterday’s message, I would like to give voice to the topic of entitlement. I want to be careful in working through this message. It would be much more pleasant to write about an energy producer rather than the energy vampire that entitlement seems to be. This also feels like a topic that is easy to sermonize as a clever, or perhaps desperate, attempt to keep it from becoming too personal. To me it is a bit like picking up a snake grabber and reaching into a barrel of rattlesnakes and lifting out a big one. You have to squeeze the snake grabber as tightly as possible and manhandle the snake at just enough distance to keep from getting bitten.

The elephant and rider metaphor really works for me when it comes to understanding the role entitlement plays in thwarting our aspirations. Entitlement has a peculiar nature. It seems to me that the more one is given, the higher the likelihood of one’s sense of entitlement increasing. I don’t know when it happens exactly, but at some point, making gains by the sweat of your brow seems to decrease entitlement’s insatiable appetite. I suspect that an unhealthy dose of entitlement is somehow also correlates to the absence of gratitude.

Entitlement makes sense as a tactic of the elephant because it is not logical. It is driven by feeling not facts. We do things we feel entitled to because we can. Buy personal items on the company credit card. Pull into the intersection when the light is turning red and cuss others who do the same thing. Attack our spouse’s character in an argument. Grab the fourth donut or the third hot dog. Pull up the XXX website…etc. We probably each have our own opinions about what constitutes a healthy sense of entitlement. We could debate what privileges or rights a human being should reasonably expect. But that maybe a red herring. Not that some actions aren’t objectionable. It maybe the attitude behind the action where entitlement crosses an unhealthy or toxic line. My argument would be that entitlement is toxic on a personal level when we expect little to nothing from ourselves and demand everything from other people.

On a macro-level we see entitlement’s ugly head fully reared in the corporate executives who know they are misappropriating funds while a company heads towards bankruptcy, in the police detective who steals narcotics and sells them to make the extra cash he deserves, the secret service agents buying drugs and prostitutes while on duty, the marchers protesting police violence while destroying their own neighborhood, or the politicians funding lavish campaign fundraisers using taxpayer dollars. You know, the typical fare of the nightly news.

Like I said, all great fodder for a sermon, but how do we motivate the elephant or keep that rattlesnake from striking? First, recognize the existential threat of an unchecked sense of entitlement to your aspirations. You don’t grip the snake grabber and pretend snake venom isn’t harmful. It is an appetite. It’s into short-term payoffs that cost very little and sabotage the growth of your character. Living above the lowest levels in life comes from the development of your character. Guilt is the wrong tool to pull out of the tool belt. At least for the awakened soul, entitlement carries the by-product of regret. But just as entitlement brings short-term payoffs, guilt brings temporary solutions. It places the focus backwards. We don’t achieve goals this way. We just end up chasing our tails.

It’s not will power alone. That’s what the rider has. Not the elephant. The first step is a white-hot desire for something different. The second is faith. It is the belief that a higher level of being you is possible. Then comes harmony between the rider, the elephant ant the path. This requires harnessing/repurposing the elephant’s power, which may be 2,000,000 times stronger than the rider’s power (which is still incredibly powerful) and aligning it with the proper path.

If the elephant’s drives/appetites are the lightning. Imagination is the bottle. Imagination (not to be confused with fantasy) trumps the will but when harmonized with the will’s power it begins to move down destiny’s path.

Our rights are a fallacy. They are border bullies standing guard at the edge of the Comfort Zone. The growth of our character (sanctification) happens outside on the other side of the border.


Rick Burris


Riding the Elephant

Riding the Elephant

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. – Apostle Paul

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. There may be an 800-pound gorilla on the coffee table too, but one metaphoric animal at a time will do.

My elephant is a sugar fiend. He would spend all day in the sugar cane fields and eat every stalk if my rider let him. My rider knows the evils of sugar and one day he will write more about when he gets that elephant out of the sugar crop once and for all. What’s your elephant into? Did you know you have one?

The elephant and rider metaphor was first put forth by social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, Jonathan David Haidt (pronounced “height”). I just downloaded Jonathan Haidt’s book – The Happiness Hypothesis on the Kindle. Reading Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch: Ho to Change When Change is Hard, was my first exposure to the metaphor.

The model depicts our two sides as humans – our analytical/controlled/rational side (its rider) and our emotional/automatic/irrational side (the elephant). According to the model, the rider is rational and can plan ahead, while the elephant is irrational and driven by emotion and instinct. We have to find the balance between the two. Can you relate to the conflict?

The Heath brothers argue that all changes follow a pattern and introduce a third element to the model – a directional/situational/environment component (the path the elephant is following)

Their evidenced backed narrative on change says,

  1. Direct the Rider
    a. Find the Bright Spots
    b. Script the Critical Moves
    c. Point to the Destination
  2. 2. Motivate the Elephant
    a. Find the Feeling
    b. Shrink the Change
    c. Grow Your People
  3. 3. Shape the Path
    a. Tweak the Environment
    b. Build Habits
    c. Rally the Herd

“Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.” You need to create a path that makes it easier to be successful.”
“Most of us are all too familiar with situations in which our Elephant overpowers our Rider. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever slept in, overeaten, dialed up your ex at midnight, procrastinated, tried to quit smoking and failed, skipped the gym, gotten angry and said something you regretted, abandoned your Spanish or piano lessons, refused to speak up in a meeting because you were scared, and so on.”

The key to effective change is getting the Elephant and the Rider moving together. Dan and Chip write:

“Changes often fail because the Rider simply can’t keep the Elephant on the road long enough to reach the destination. The Elephant’s hunger for instant gratification is the opposite of the Rider’s strength, which is the ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment (all those things that your pet can’t do.) … To make progress toward a goal, whether it’s noble or crass, requires the energy and drive of the Elephant. And this strength is the mirror image of the Rider’s great weakness: spinning his wheels. The Rider tends to overanalyze and over think things. … A reluctant Elephant and a wheel-spinning Rider can both ensure nothing changes. But when Elephants and Riders move together, change can come easily.”

They then introduce 3 surprises which can be helpful in framing messages:


  1. What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity. Don’t say eat healthier. Say eat more dark leafy greens.
  2. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. Change is hard…acknowledge it.
  3. What looks like a people problem is often a situational problem. Make sure to think about their environment and support system.

I love this metaphor because it is one with which I immediately connected. I think one trick is not to allow the elephant to become our excuse for lack of growth and change. It has also helped me to know that one of the elephant’s key tactics is his sense of entitlement. Let’s talk about that one tomorrow.

Today – Go celebrate your bright spots.


Rick Burris


Do You See the Art

Do You See the Art

Since February of 2016, my two sons and I have practiced Nihon Goshin Aikido at Beckham Martial Arts and Fitness. NGA is a movement based, close-quarters martial art that can be learned by anyone of any size or age. It is a combination of aikido, aiki-jujitsu, jujitsu, judo, karate, and iaido. We learn street effective self-defense that disarms and subdues aggressors with turns, throws, joint-locks, and breaks.

One night I had the honor of being the junior most student to serve as part of the uke (attacker) for four brown belt students who were completing their final tests for their black belts. The four brown belts range in age from mid-30s to 60. Each had to defend themselves from 50 attacks by multiple attackers (2 or 3). This is done attack line style. The defender (nage) stands in one spot in the floor and the uke is lined up to make the attacks as instructed by the shihan (lead instructor).

When the attack lines were complete, each brown belt then used a succession of 25 different defenses in a randori attack. In randori, the nage stands in the center of the dojo surrounded by an uke of 6 people. Each member of the uke attacks the nage with a particular strike or kick and the nage must use a specific technique for defense. If you are doing the math that is 150 correctly executed defenses. If the defense is not correct, the nage must do it again. If you want an idea of the physicality of this process, it is about like doing 150 pushups in 25 sets of 6 except that you have to stand up between every single pushup.

Throughout the entire process, the emphasis is on control. To pass, the nage must defend with the intensity appropriate to the belt of the uke. When the uke is black belts, the defenses are much more aggressive than when the uke are yellow belts (like me). The size of the attacker must also be factored in. For the purpose of the tests, the nage immediately fails if they hurt any uke. The uke is also responsible for giving a realistic attack and protecting himself/herself with side falls, back falls, forward rolls and tapping out when joint locks are applied.

On one wall of the dojo is a name board. Hanging on the board are thin strips of wood with the name of each member of the dojo placed in position relevant to their rank. At the end of the tests, the lead instructor confers with all his black belts (fellow instructors) and then reveals the results starting with the most senior brown belt first. If the test has been completed successfully, the member ceremoniously moves their name on the name board. The lead instructor will call the person’s name and inform them that they may move their name on the board. It was a special moment when the senior most brown belt’s wife, who was in attendance, got to tell call out her husband’s name and tell him to move his name on the name board. I am proud to report that we now have four new black belts in our dojo.

I share this experience because I am proud of the accomplishment these gentlemen have made. Each of them have their own story. Rising to the level of a black belt is so much more than demonstrating a series of physical skills at a moment in time. What took place in the dojo last night was an event. It was neither a point of arrival nor departure. What makes the accomplishment of these men more meaningful is that what they did last night was merely the continuation of what was inside them since they first set foot in the dojo.

There IS an addition and subtraction process. One must learn and demonstrate 50 different skills to reach the level of Sho-Dan (1st degree black belt). But showing a skill at a moment in time in a controlled environment, does not guarantee any person is ready to defend themselves on the street. If you’ve practiced just enough to pass a test at a moment in time, your skills are about as valuable as the piece of paper your certificate is printed. You don’t need my help to draw the parallel to the “certifications” one obtains in life only to be shoved in a drawer or at best framed on a wall but with no measurable difference made in readiness for action.

There is an unsubstantiated story (meaning it is internet bunk but I love the illustration just the same) of Michelangelo being asked about the difficulty in creating the David sculpture. His reply being,

“It’s easy. I just started with the slab of marble and took away everything that everything that wasn’t David.”

Along the journey to the black belt level, these gentlemen had to chip away unproductive habits and limiting beliefs that stood in their path.

Friend, do you believe in the artistry in you? Are you aware that a Potter is at work? Consider this message in light of your own goals. What needs to be chipped away and what needs to be developed. I would love to hear what you discover Friend. Why not drop me a reply as a way of making your declaration and reaffirming your commitment to what is being shaped in you?





Rick Burris

Are You Above the Line

Are You Above the Line

Are you living your life above the line?
My wife is. In fact, she has been since I have known her, and it has paid off. It is the reason she was just hired for an administrative assistant position at a university that is within walking distance from our house.
Among other reasons why she was chosen for the position is that the interview team could see that she lives above the line. As it turns out, the team has recently been going through the book, the 15 Commitments of a Conscious Leader by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Klemp. They describe their model for leadership this way,
The model is a simple black line. At any moment, a leader is either above the line or below the line. When we are above the line, we are open, curious and committed to learning. When we’re below the line, we’re closed, defensive and committed to being right. What we suggest is that the first fundamental building block of conscious leadership is the ability to accurately locate yourself at any moment, asking, “Am I above or below the line?”
This sounds rather simple, but it actually requires a high degree of self-awareness. Many leaders spend most of their time below the line. In fact, it is the normal state. Asking them if they’re below the line would be like asking a fish if it’s wet. When leaders begin the journey to conscious leadership, they develop a greater and greater capacity to locate themselves accurately in any given moment.
Many leaders spend most of their time below the line because we go there when we are threatened or when we are in a fight or flight reactivity and the goal is survival. Our brains are hardwired to do this. This is normal. It is human. The issue is that this reactive pattern occurs whether the threat is real or perceived, and when the perceived threat is to the survival of the ego, we go below the line to protect it. Many ego-driven leaders experience a fairly constant threat to their ego. Thus they live and lead from below the line.
When leaders are below the line, they are in a low-learning state and create cultures of fear and threat. This results in lower creativity, innovation, collaboration and connection. When they’re above the line, they are in a state of trust, and the result is a higher level of effectiveness.
So the first key of conscious leaders is to accurately locate themselves either above or below the line. If they’re below the line, the second key to conscious leadership is to shift back above the line. Leaders master reliable shift moves that take them back above the line.
While we enjoy a celebration at our house, I thought it would also be a great time for some self-examination. Am I living above the line? Am I living above the line as a conscious leader of my life, or below it as an unconscious leader?
Why not take the time to consider this for yourself? Go get the 15 Commitments PDF in the Resource tab.
Rick Burris
The Big Mo

The Big Mo

If you placed a small block of wood under the front wheel of a stationary train, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for that train to move forward. But let that train get up to speed and it could crash through an entire building. The difference is momentum.

One of the most interesting things about watching team sports is seeing how momentum can switch throughout a game. A few big plays from one team can amp the excitement level of all that team’s players and fans. Everything seems to get easier for that team and harder for the other team. It is fascinating to watch a match where one team dominates the first half of play and another team comes out in the second half to steal the momentum back and win the game. Our latest Super Bowl was a perfect example of this.
Work weeks have momentum. The Business News Daily (and several other sources) cite a study from staffing firm Accountemps which discovered that Monday and Tuesday are the two most productive days of the week for employees. Specifically, 39 percent of human resources managers think employees get the most done on Tuesdays, while 24 percent believe productivity peaks on Mondays.
After the start of the week, the amount of work getting done seems to drop. Only 14 percent of those surveyed feel the most work gets accomplished on Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday tied for the least productive days.
Brings to mind the Loverboy song, “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend”.Personally, I like Wednesdays for getting more work done. That is when I feel more like the train in motion. What about you?
In John Maxwell’s most famous book, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Law #16 is the Big Mo. Here are a few principles on momentum from Law #16.
“When you have no momentum, even the simplest tasks seem impossible… On the other hand, when you have momentum on your side, the future looks bright, and obstacles appear small. ”
Truths About Momentum 
1) Momentum is the Great Exaggerator – momentum is like a magnifying glass; it makes things look bigger than they really are. Because momentum has such a great impact, leaders try to control it. When you have momentum, you don’t worry about small problems and many larger ones seem to work themselves out.
2) Momentum Makes Leaders Look Better Than They Are – When leaders have momentum on their side, people forget about their past mistakes. Once a leader creates some success for his organization, people give him more credit than he deserves. Momentum exaggerates a leader’s success and makes him look better than he really is.
3) Momentum Helps Followers Perform Better Than They Are – When momentum is strong, people are motivated to perform at higher levels, making all participants more successful than they would be otherwise.
4) Momentum Is Easier to Steer Than to Start – Getting started is a struggle, but once you’re moving forward, you can really start to do some amazing things.
5) Momentum Is the Most Powerful Change Agent – Given enough momentum, nearly any kind of change is possible in an organization. Followers trust leaders with a proven track record. They accept changes from people when they have led them to victory before. Momentum puts victory within reach.
6) Momentum is the Leader’s Responsibility – It takes a leader to create momentum. Followers can catch it. But creating momentum requires someone who has vision, can assemble a good team, and motivates others. If the leader is waiting for the organization to develop momentum on its own, then the organization is in trouble.
7) Momentum Begins Inside the Leader – It starts with vision, passion, and enthusiasm. The leader most model those qualities to his people day in and day out, which will attract like-minded people to his team. Once you see forward progress, you will begin to generate momentum. Once you have it, you can do almost anything. That’s the power of the Big Mo.
Here’s to making today your most productive this week.

Rick Burris

Growth Hurts

Growth Hurts

If we are serious about personal and professional growth, we must be willing to challenge our presuppositions – our convenient beliefs. That is uncomfortable.
My former mentor, Buford Makenzie, used to say,

“Growth hurts.”

I wonder sometimes if fatalism serves as a convenient excuse for avoiding the distasteful medicine of reality. When something about our businesses or our personal life isn’t going as we want, perhaps we have unmet goals, or we are getting more “nos” than “yesses” (or no response at all), is it possible that we default to a convenient excuse that it wasn’t meant to be.
Presuppositions, are like tools, they aren’t good or bad inherently, they either serve us well when properly used or get in the way when improperly used. Consider the definition of the word.

“a thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action”

Making tacit assumptions allows us to take shortcuts and save time. We are doing this regarding other people, social situations, and ourselves constantly. It flows out of our subconscious which is processing 4,000,000,000 bits of data every second.
For example, when we first learn to drive a car, everything is new. We have to work very hard with our conscious mind engaged to develop the skills necessary to drive the car without much conscious effort. Soon, and for the rest of our driving days, we do the majority of our driving based on our presuppositions. I turn the key it will start. I apply a certain amount of pressure to the brake and stop just behind the car ahead of me.
Driving using tactical assumptions is a much better tool on interstate highways where there are long stretches of sameness than it is in the city limits. I can make a few assumptions as I drive through town to take the boys to school each day. Like, leaving the house at 7:00am means much less traffic than leaving the house at 7:15am. But even when traffic is light, I am using presupposition much less often than when we drive from South Carolina to Arkansas to visit the boys’ grandmother. However, driving 100% unconsciously on highways causes plenty of missed turns and many accidents. In fact, road engineers purposefully place curves in long straightaways even when it is not dictated by the terrain. They do this to interrupt the sameness that hypnotizes drivers into purely unconscious driving.
It is nice to get into comfortable grooves in our personal and professional lives. It is not a bad thing to have steady cash flow, enjoy good health, and happy relationships. But we mustn’t mistake the straightaways of life for enlightenment or entitlement.
On the other hand, we must not mistake unmet goals for inevitable predetermined events. Writing off the lack of success as fate or God’s will may just be a convenient way to avoid uncomfortable truths.
Carl Jung said,

“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”

Discomfort is the best arena for growth. But whether we find ourselves on uncomfortable curves or comfortable straightaways in our personal and professional lives, we must be careful that our convenient beliefs don’t pronounce the verdict before all the evidence is in. Keep digging there is more to discover.

“Further up and further in!”




Rick Burris

Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap

Albert Einstein said,
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
When you understand some of the differences between the conscious (rational) mind and the subconscious (intuitive) mind, it is easy to see why Einstein would make that statement. None of us want to be that pilot who “went with his gut” over the data in front of him and made a disastrous decision (see previous message). The trick is to turn the tables. Make intuition the servant and the rational mind the gift. Pull the lever and activate your inner Columbo.
You remember Columbo – the character played by Peter Falk in the 1971-2003 TV series about the Los Angeles homicide detective, Lieutenant Columbo, who used his humble ways and ingenuous demeanor to winkle out even the most well-concealed of crimes.
Colombo was the master of making intuition his servant. He had no problem if others thought he was the dumbest guy in the room. He would listen and observe while fumbling around with his trench coat looking for a cigar. All the while he was silently following a hunch. Just as he was about to walk out the door, he would turn around and say,
“There is just one more thing….”
Next came a question that nailed the culprit.
Investigation is the revealer. Our conscious mind is processing a mere 2,000 bits of information per second compared to the 4,000,000,000 bits of information our subconscious mind is processing each second. The reason I say it is like catching lightning in a bottle is because the subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate fact from imagination. By the way, for the last several moments while you were reading this, a spider was descending from the ceiling on a web and is just about to land on the back of your exposed neck.
You get my point. No spider but your subconscious mind matched those words to an image of a spider, perhaps a vivid and disturbing one.
The intuitive mind is picking up signals much faster than our conscious mind and trying to tell us something about a situation.
Columbo said,
I worry. I mean, little things bother me. I’m a worrier. I mean, little insignificant
details – I lose my appetite. I can’t eat. My wife, she says to me, ‘you know, you can really be a pain’.”
We tend to think that some people are naturally more intuitive than others. That may be partially true, but it is more accurate to think of intuition as a skill that is developed and master through repetition.
We are fond of saying, for example, “That’s women’s intuition.” However, one study showed that men have plenty of intuition but may habitually choose to ignore it more than women. They demonstrated that by offering incentive (pay) for the use of intuition and “Voila” men’s intuition magically matched that of the women in the study.
Michael Hyatt says,
“Leadership is less about having the right answers and more about having the right questions.”
Without good questions, intuition is nothing more than assumptions that could be completely inaccurate. Both in business and our private life we do well to recognize that we may be the worst person to know what is accurate because we are too close to a given situation.
You can help me think of more, but here are four areas I can think of where this happens. The expectations we have of others, communication, marketing, price setting.
It is amazing how many companies have no idea why they hire for certain positions. They just fill an open spot because it is vacant. Too many supervisors treat an opening like another box to put a checkmark in with little to no thought given as to why the position is needed. Most of the thought is “I’m busy. I need help.” Then after the hire the same supervisor is too “busy” to properly train the new hire and speak clearly about the expectations for the job. They just assume the person will know.
Same as the above but with the encoding and decoding of what is said. We have a nagging feeling something is off but we filter our thoughts with our own encoding and decoding rather than sitting down (or picking up the phone) and having the difficult conversation. (See article on Mind the Gap HERE.)
A lot of money is thrown out the window because “this is the way we have always done it.” We spent “X” amount last year. We will add 3% more this year and hope for a better result. Or, if we pay attention, we craft messages we think people want to hear, but we have no way of knowing because we haven’t put any kind of tools in place to ask and measure the response our ads are getting.
We charge a particular amount because we intuitively think it is what someone will pay or we just look at our “competition” and go a little lower. Like Forest’s mom said, Stupid is as stupid does.” Our customers are in the best position to tell us about our prices. We may be leaving a lot of money on the table because we haven’t asked the question.
What am I missing here? Why not send me a note and tell me?

Has anything been nagging you? Take one minute for quietness. Stop and close your eyes and think of the one action you could take today that would make you more peaceful at 8:30 this evening. Do that thing today.Warmly,

Rick Burris

Don’t Trust Your Gut, Investigate It

Don’t Trust Your Gut, Investigate It

I am so grateful to have had a father who is also one of my heroes. You would have loved him. Everyone did. Those involved in the Life Leaders GPS get to learn a bit of his story as an “uphill person”. You want to know one of the best things about him? He kissed my mom every day. After a day of work, they always greeted each other with a kiss. They were married 68 years when he passed.
Many adults experience their parents getting smarter as they get older. The thing about my dad was that he was wise. By profession, he was an appliance repairman. You know how people use the expression, “He has forgotten more than most people will ever know”? That phrase was very fitting for my dad. The guy was an encyclopedia when it came to the appliance repair world.
Every one of my siblings (and countless other people) have stories of being on the phone with my dad and having him walk you through appliance repairs. He would say,
“Tell me the make and model number.” 
“Okay, go to the front of the dryer. Look at the left side of the control panel.”
“There is a screw there. Take that off and remove the panel. You will see two more screws on the front corners. Take those out and pull the front panel off.”
“Look in the bottom of the dryer. You will see a metal arm with a plastic roller laying there. That means your belt is broken. It shouldn’t be laying there. You need a new belt. It is part #……”
It was uncanny. Every step was exactly as he described.
As his son, I experienced that his knowledge and life skills went way beyond the appliance realm. He was a process guy. He understood how things fit together and he could talk you through life’s circumstances from beginning to end. Buying your first car? He would tell you everything to expect when you went on the lot. Home loan? Getting insurance? Home repairs? All the same, call him up and he could walk you through it.
He was by no means a perfect man, but he was an amazing man. He is a great testimony to the principle that “Leadership is Influence.” His last breath came on September 2, 2012 but his influence remains. He also had great intuition.
If you read anything about intuition, it almost always comes with the caution of its unreliability as the sole source for decision making. For example, a November 2002 article in Psychology Today cites this incident.
In July 2002, a Russian airliner’s computer-guidance system instructed its pilot to ascend as another jet approached in the sky over Switzerland. At the same time, a Swiss air-traffic controller—whose computerized system was down—offered a human judgment: descend. Faced with conflicting advice, the pilot’s intuitive response was to trust another human’s intuition. Tragically, the two planes collided midair, killing everyone on board.

It is no wonder intuition requires vigilance given the definition of the word


The ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. A thing that one knows or considers, likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.
My dad had great instincts. His intuition was strong but it was effective because he matched it with reason. There are plenty of people operating their lives purely out of their assumptions too busy “trusting their gut” or the unfounded garbage someone else has fed them to let the facts get in their way. Unchecked intuition can be the source of a great deal of pain.
One of my career experiences helped me to understand this well. I got my start as a camp professional in a Y camp but after three years, I was ready for a change. This led to an eight-year hiatus from the Y in therapeutic wilderness camping. I returned to Y camps at Camp Classen in Oklahoma. At 2,400 acres, Classen is the fourth largest Y camp in the U.S.. When I arrived, I was the director of one of three major parts of the camp called 89’er Village. It was an area for teens that offered adventure-based programming in the summer and environmental education for schools and retreat camping in the non-summer months. It was designed to be run like an autonomous camp. It needed no other facilities from the rest of the camp to operate. My encounters as the director of 89’er Village will have to be other stories for other days.
As it happens, the camp suffered the loss of two large school districts who sent their 5th grade classes each for a week of environmental education. This meant that nearly overnight, the camp went from being a $2.4M operation to a $1.2M operation. It was on the first day of the fiscal year that I became the executive director of the camp. It was like having a patient in cardiac arrest. Besides stepping into a financial crisis, I stepped into the middle of a 20-year old feud between the camp board of managers and the CEO of the Oklahoma City YMCA. It was a huge mess. Here is my point. As the financial crisis began to approach, there was a suggestion that 89’er Village be closed and all camp operations be run out of the main/original part of the camp. In the one and a half years prior to becoming the executive director, I was dead set against this idea and I was extremely fired up about it. Everything in my gut told me it was a rotten idea and I had plenty of emotionally-charged arguments on the subject. I knew in my heart and with every fiber of my being that it was the wrong decision to make.
Then, suddenly, I was the executive director. I started looking at the numbers and asking camp directors and non-camp professionals all over the country what their take on the situation was. It didn’t take me long to realize that closing 89’er Village was the right move to make and we did it. Some people hated me for it and some probably still do but I left the camp after three years with the camp finishing $400K ahead of budget. It was painful but it taught me a valuable lesson about “trusting my gut” and mob mentality.
I say all of this not to malign intuition. Intuition is powerful and may be our highest form of intelligence. Just as we can suffer greatly by blindly trusting our assumptions, we can lose out big-time by discounting them.
The problem with the hunches and gut feelings we have is that we are usually the worst person to determine if they are reliable. I will share more on this topic in another message but it seems to me that we should drop the proverb
“Trust you gut.”

And adopt the adage of

“Investigate your gut.”

Another Psychology Today article from May 2007 says it this way.
The best explanation psychologists now offer is that intuition is a mental matching game. The brain takes in a situation, does a very quick search of its files, and then finds its best analogue among the stored sprawl of memories and knowledge. Based on that analogy, you ascribe meaning to the situation in front of you…
…Encased in certainty, intuitions compel us to act in specific ways, and those who lack intuition are essentially cognitively paralyzed.

We are not all Dr. Spock. Logic alone doesn’t serve us well and, as far as I can tell, we haven’t mastered the mind meld thing as a society. Intuition is powerful and ignoring it makes us downright ignorant. When we do we are tying half our brains behind our backs. Harnessing the power of intuition can be like catching lightning in a bottle. There is a way to make our intuition serve us well. Read the Columbo post to see what that is.


Rick Burris

Did You Say Banana

Did You Say Banana

There is a fun camp skit that depicts two people having a phone conversation. Person #1 is instructing Person #2 over the phone, how to fold a bandanna and to properly use it as a head covering. Person #2 listens very intently and follows the directions to a tee except for their misunderstanding of one word. They heard Person #1 to say the word “banana” instead of “bandanna”. Of course, Person #2 is holding a banana while doing everything they are told including folding it and putting it on their head. Finally, Person #2 asks the clarifying question,

“Did you say banana?”

I wonder if you identify more with Person #1 or #2 in that scenario. To borrow the lyrics of “Sound of Silence” completely out of context, we all have moments when we tend to be “people talking without speaking” and “people hearing without listening”.
Listening is one of the more rewarding aspects of being a coach. Some of my favorite moments from this week have been the engagement with coaching participants in a manner that allowed me to be totally absent of any agenda of my own. It is much of what gives power to the coaching process. I get to show up with my energy and have no attachment to the outcome. It is in those moments, I am free to listen best. It is rewarding because, like you, and the rest of planet Earth, I spend way too much time hearing without listening.
When we meet someone, we consider interesting, we often feel this way less because of what they tell us about themselves and more about what they learn about us.
We also know people we count as terrible listeners. Isn’t it the worst when you can tell someone feels you are not worth their time? Like the boss who can’t seem to put their phone down or get off their computer when you are in their office for a “meeting”.
On the other hand, have you ever stopped to think how powerful it can be to listen at a deeper level or wondered how many levels of listening exist? With some reflection, I’m sure you could break the levels down further, but I will suggest three.
Level One: You listen in order to meet your own agenda. You ask yourself, “What does this mean to me?”
Level Two: You listen to know what is really in the heart of a person. You ask yourself, “What does this mean to him or her?”
Level Three: You use the power of questions and transformational thinking. You listen to know the heart of God for that person. “What does this really mean in the Kingdom of God for him or her?” (This is not authentic if it does not come from the Holy Spirit.)
(If that “Christian”ese makes you uncomfortable, the secular way of saying it would be that you listen to what is being said to understand its importance to this person’s whole life as you understand it).
It is Level Two and Three that are the gateway to transformational learning but even when you consciously choose to listen at a deeper level, it doesn’t guarantee transformation. It is usually our desire to problem solve or sympathize that get in the way.
Listening to problem solve is expedient and sometimes sympathy is too, but neither are transformational. We decide to honor our co-workers, our spouses, friends or children by allowing our own agenda to be interrupted. We intentionally put aside distractions to give the person our attention. We try to get outside of ourselves and focus on the bigger picture for the other person. Once we feel like we have all the facts, our analytical or sympathetic mind goes to work. These are not bad traits, but when we are willing, we can encourage the other person to be empowered by giving them space to tap into their own resourcefulness and not just ours.
When once, as a listener, you discipline yourself to back off and give the speaker room (time and space) to discover the answers that are right with them and you know in your spirit that personal growth has just taken place, you experience a moment so special, it becomes difficult to be satisfied with less.
I’m sure you know this already. But try it out this weekend. Practice Level Three listening and resist the urge to swoop in too quickly. If you need a bit of inspiration for this,

click HERE, Grasshopper.


Rick Burris

Are You Experienced

Are You Experienced

John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, who is considered the father of experiential education said,
“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.”
In the past 35 years, I have had several opportunities to pause and evaluate my circumstances. With the value of hindsight, I usually see how specific events or seemingly unrelated experiences fit into a larger unfolding picture. Perhaps this has happened to you. Has a past experience become more meaningful to you over time in a way that caused you to see that its purpose wasn’t just for its own time?
In 2000, I finished my master’s degree in experiential education. At that time in my life, my career goal was to become the executive director of a therapeutic camp. I knew a master’s degree would be helpful but it was not vital for me to choose experiential education. I could have selected many different majors. Experiential education made the most sense to me due to my awareness of my own interests and the hands-on learning aspects of therapeutic camping.
I did enjoy the study and while I was never an executive director of a therapeutic camp the degree has become increasingly significant in my life. Never more so than it is today as a life strategist and creator of the Life Leaders GPS.
The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) defines experiential education as:
a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities.
I must admit I have never been closely involved with the AEE and I certainly did not have the previous sentence memorized, so I find it uncanny how accurately it describes the Life Leaders GPS. The creation of this tool has been informed by several different modalities of my own training and experiences in life (my certification as a coach and leadership trainer, hundreds of hours of self-education in neuro-linguistic programming and the principles of life and career success, my faith, the foundations of therapeutic camping, my career as a camp professional, and perhaps least of all my formal education).
All of that background only gives the Life Leaders GPS its structure. It doesn’t give it any brilliance or beauty. That is where you step in. This process didn’t begin as a course, but as the pieces started to assemble it became clear that it is a course in the study of YOU. Your unique design and your unique experiences are the subject matter of this course. This is a distinct opportunity for you to purposefully engage in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase your knowledge (or awareness), develop your skills, and clarify your values. It is the possibility of a better future and the development of your capacity to contribute to your community. Its distinction comes not from any brilliance of my own, but rather from the unfortunate fact that focused reflection and the clarification of one’s values is widely uncommon and even avoided by most. When it comes to personal growth, the majority would rather worship at the altar of “too little time and money” as a convenient belief that enables the evasion of discomfort.
But as your own experience tells you, everything that has taken your life to the next level has required loosening your grip on something from your current level. When we grow, everyone we care about benefits and we experience higher satisfaction in life.
Perhaps another John Dewey quote sums it up best.

“To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.”


Rick Burris

Hesitation is Risky Business

Hesitation is Risky Business

When was the last time you took a risk? I mean a big risk. Is it possible that your life has become so safe and predictable (i.e. boring) that risk is sneaking its way out of your consciousness and vernacular?

When I say risk, I’m not talking about the kind that comes from the “I’m indestructible” mindset that makes teenage boys the most susceptible to dying from adventure activities; or the “it’ll never happen to me” category that keeps a young girl from giving up smoking. Those kinds of risks come from the denial of facts, and thank you Lord for helping me to survive those days (mostly unscathed).
I’m talking about the risks that come when you know the dangers. You understand the possibility of failure or rejection. The ones you realize go against conventional wisdom or “the way things are done around here”. My friend Brian, who I mentioned yesterday, has lingered in high adventure sports longer than most men his age. He was explaining to me what it is like to do street luging on curvy mountain roads.
You lay down feet-first on a long skateboard with your body two inches from the asphalt. Once you launch, you pick up speed rapidly and, as long as you don’t sit up, your speed quickly and steadily increases. The more you can keep the board to the center line of the road, the easier it is to steer through the curves with just slight shifts of your weight. When you get to the road’s edge your danger of crashing increases with the rough terrain, and one misplaced rock can mean devastation. Let alone an oncoming car!
Brian said they go up the mountain early and take several steps to reduce the danger. They sweep the road thoroughly and stage vehicles at either end of the run to stop traffic. But he also told me that he had to give the sport up because he was reaching speed of 80+ miles per hour and had lost his fear of crashing. Smart man.
Conscious risk-takers haven’t lost their grip on reality. They just don’t let circumstances and an overactive imagination sabotage decisive action. Part of why I wrote about galvanization yesterday was a response to the timidity I sense among strong people who are hiding their light. Their strength has gained them a great deal of comfort in life and stepping out into the unknown feels like a major risk.
Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, and one of the foremost authorities on success, said one of the most common characteristics of successful people is decisive action. When you are stuck in comfort it is good to remember his saying.
“Don’t wait. The timing will never be just right.”
Since when did we have the power to predict the future with 100% certainty? When you know your values, risk is simpler. Not knowing what your values truly are is plenty of folly of its own. Reckless behavior will always be foolish, but action (risk) that is in harmony with your core values is characteristic of the most successful people we know.
As it has been said,
“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships were built for.”
Stop right now and write down one thing you are hesitating on that needs your action. Don’t just give it a momentary thought. Write it down and go do it. Deal?


Rick Burris

PS Who do you know that needs to read this?  Pass it along to them.


“…turn and face the strain.”

Some days when I sit down to tap out the daily email I know exactly what I am going to say. Others I have no idea until I am at the keyboard. My favorite days are when I feel an idea moving through me. It is usually surprising. Sunday afternoons are my time of weekly calibration. (See P.S.). That is when I line out what I intend to write about each day, but I remain flexible to what moves me in the moment because I suspect that what moves me may move you as well.
It was an interesting chain of thought that led me to today’s topic – “CHANGE”.
Somehow it was inspired by my sweet sister Suzie. If you want to know how I feel about her see my Legacy Affirmation Message to her HERE. I barely held it together to get through filming my message to her. Hard to even now when I think about that moment as I was sitting in my car about to head into a doctor’s appointment for some of the best news I have ever received. (Another story for another day).
I have shared an excerpt from Energy Bus about leading from the heart. It was on the same day that my sweet sister had hip replacement surgery. Knowing she is in tremendous pain and unable to take narcotics as I write this is, pardon the pun, a tough pill to swallow. Suzie leads her life from the heart. She has endured physical maladies I wouldn’t wish on anyone. As she remains the steady rock for those she loves the main constant in her life has been change.
I wonder what change you are coping with in your life. What is true for Suzie is true for you and I. Change is occurring all the time. It is happening on macro levels and micro levels.
“…individual cells have a finite life span, and when they die off they are replaced with new cells. As The New York Public Library’s Science Desk Reference (Stonesong Press, 1995) notes, “There are between 50 and 75 trillion cells in the body…. Each type of cell has its own life span, and when a human dies it may take hours or days before all the cells in the body die…
Red blood cells live for about four months, while white blood cells live on average more than a year. Skin cells live about two or three weeks. Colon cells have it rough: They die off after about four days. Sperm cells have a life span of only about three days, while brain cells typically last an entire lifetime (neurons in the cerebral cortex, for example, are not replaced when they die).”
Our brain cells may not replace themselves, but that doesn’t mean our mindset has to remain the same. Managing change appropriately can be one of the most healthy and intelligent skill sets we take on board. For years, intelligence was primarily measured by IQ, but advances in the study of life success revealed that one’s IQ had no correlation to an ability to cope with the variables of life. Plenty of change takes place under our individual radar but sometimes change gets personal and it hurts and if our EQ (Emotional Intelligence) hasn’t matured, it’s even more difficult. EQ essentially boils down to one word, “flexibility”. I remember the first time I heard, Mom Lois, the Eighty-something-year-old wife of a camp director say,
“Do you know what the ‘F’ word in camp is? …FLEXIBILITY.”
Flexibility is our skill and speed in processing change. At first blush, it sounds like rolling with the punches, but I would like to suggest that it can be more than that if we prepare ourselves to grow continually in character. We do that by approaching change with a higher level of thought. When you take the 7 Levels course this will make more sense to you.
As an instrument of change, both in the giving and receiving end, I can share two thoughts that I have found valuable. The first seems a bit trite, especially if you are resisting change but here goes,
“We don’t know what we like, we like what we know.”
I’m guessing you have heard that before. To me, it speaks to awareness. We tend to view change we don’t initiate, and even some we do, through a black and white lens. It is either “GOOD” or it is “BAD”. Trust me, some change starts out on the “VERY BAD” end of the spectrum, but I like another saying Mom Lois once said,
“The Lord takes a longer look.”
He sees farther down the road than we do and what begins in unpleasantness often ends much more positively. If you have ever been fired from a job and bounced back you are smelling what I am cooking. Which leads me to the second learning that has helped me as an agent of change who has worked through the process of change many times over. Here it is. The process of change is no different than the stages of grief. Do you know them?
Stages of Grief
• Shock
• Anger
• Bargaining
• Depression (anger turned inward)
• Acceptance
In my lifetime, the world has moved out of the Industrial Age and into the Information Age. I tend to agree with those who say the Information Age is over. History will find a title for the new age (lower case intended). But I have a seed to plant. Why don’t we take the lead and make this the Transformation Age? Let’s leave the lower levels of life behind and quit waiting for someone else to define our life for us. Let’s be, as the good book says,
“Transformed by the renewing of our minds.”
What if we refused to ever allow ourselves to be in the role of hapless victim ever again and grabbed ahold of the idea that the circumstances and events of our lives are gifts for the growth of our soul – the development of our character. What if we finally got it – it is not about us. Everyone around us wins when we grow. Whether change is something we initiate or absorb, we decide if it becomes transformational.
Let’s increase our TQ – Transformational Intelligence.
Anyone with me? I know some who are. If no one else is, I am still going up where the worthwhile things are waiting.Warmly,

Rick Burris

PS The Weekly Calibration comes in the Productivity Jet Pack of the Leaders Backpack course.

What Makes You Cry

What Makes You Cry

When was the last time you had a proper cry?
If that sentence made you a little uncomfortable, you will be even more uncomfortable when I tell you that I once stood up in front of 200 people and cried so much I couldn’t speak. My family and I had the privilege of sharing with our church about our November 2016 trip to Orphanage Emanuel in Guiamaca, Honduras and I wept my way through half of my speaking time.
What Makes You Cry?
When it comes to talking about the orphanage, it is easy for me to get choked up. This was trip five for our family and trip six for me. On four of the six trips, I have been asked to give a message at the orphanage’s church during the Sunday service. Yesterday was our family’s second time to share with our own church about a Honduras trip. On each of those occasions, it has happened.
As the executive director of Y Camp Greenville, I gave the Easter Sunrise Service message four of my five years. On two of those occasions, it happened. As a speaker, I would prefer it not happen. The vast majority of the time it does not happen, but in these instances and a few others, I have begun to cry in the middle of a message. My family is quite familiar with this “phenomena”. Yesterday my youngest son and my wife were quietly chuckling when it happened.
As a strategist, I believe in intentionality and maintaining control of those things we should control. Emotions would fall into that category. What can make emotional crying awkward is that it is disruptive. It changes the hormone level and creates vulnerability.
Crying has a preservation nature. Like laughing, it is much easier to prevent than to stop once it has started. Both laughing and crying increase empathy between people.
I have come to accept that there may be a benefit for others when it occurs. The first time it took place was while I was speaking at our church in North Carolina, probably the year 2001. Afterwards, I was telling an older gentleman how embarrassed I was. His take was that people are too cut off from their emotions and needed the encouragement to reconnect.
But, our tears can also increase our awareness about our own life purpose. I am talking about the movement part of being moved to tears. Perhaps, it is revealing something about our soul.
Try this. Make a quick list of the last 5 times you have cried.
Here is my list, besides the times I have mentioned.
  1. Listening to the playback of one particular recording for the Life Leaders GPS.
  2. While dreaming about my parents. I’m not sure why but I did not cry at either of their funerals. In fact, I didn’t have an honest cry about my dad dying until after my mom died. Shortly after my mom passed, I had a dream that I got to sit and talk with my dad. In the dream, I gave him a hug and I could smell his scent. The intimacy and familiarity of that moment opened the floodgates and I woke up sobbing uncontrollably.
  3. The first time that I heard each of my boys’ hearts beat on the baby monitor and right after they were born.
  4. On three different occasions during worship time in a church service.

What do the instances you remember tell you about what moves you? You may find a common theme in these times that can reveal something about who you are. In the Passion Time Line lesson of the Life Leaders GPS, we take an in-depth look at what passions have emerged in our life and how our passions inform our purpose.

Anyone can make a lot of noise, and many do, but finding fulfillment in life and expressing your unique individuality in a way that builds a legacy, is a horse of a different color. Knowing what makes us cry is a key piece of the passion puzzle.

As Nelson Mandela said,
“There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Don’t settle. Keep moving and keep being moved.


Rick Burris

Put a Word On It

Put a Word On It

I heard a quote that I had to track down. It led me to American artist, painter and photographer, Chuck Close. Finding Chuck followed a very difficult conversation between my wife and I. When I say conversation, I might be referring to an argument, at least that is how it started.
One of our family values is resolving conflicts quickly. Our time spent in therapeutic camping has had major payoffs in this area. Those eight years reinforced many principles of life leadership that have served us well. Not the least of which is the practice of talking things out.
Our argument mostly came from a place of the insecurities which we each had allowed to boil up into stress. Once the tea kettle finally whistled, and the steam cleared away, we took a walk and talked about what was really going on. In therapeutic camping, we used to say,

“Put a word on it.”

It is a simple way to remember that our negative emotions have power in our subconscious until we call them up into our conscious awareness and take their power away.
As Carl Jung said,
“Until we make the subconscious, conscious, it will rule our lives and we will call it fate.”
I am willing to bet that the ”gremlin” rolling around in the subconscious of the great majority of the population is the fear of inadequacy. I suspect that a great many people fear inadequacy because they experience a dissonance between the bigger dream inside them and their current circumstances (be they real or imagined). Most have probably settled for a “dumbed-down” life of conformity.
Which brings me back to Chuck Close and his quote.
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. … “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

“I threw away my tools. I chose to do things I had no facility with. The choice not to do something is in a funny way more positive than the choice to do something. If you impose a limit to not do something you’ve done before, it will push you to where you’ve never gone before.”
You might need to re-read that quote. I did. By itself it is a great quote, no matter who said it; but when you know more about Chuck’s story, it is incredible.
Chuck lost his father at 11, missed most of the sixth grade due to a neuro-muscular condition and a kidney disorder. When he was in school, he had a rough time due to his undiagnosed dyslexia. His big dream struck him at the age of 14 while on a visit to the Seattle Art Museum. That dream has since become manifest into Chuck being one of the most renown artists of our time. He is best known for his very large portraits based on photographs (Photorealism or Hyperrealism technique) of family and friends, often other artists and famous people (like Brad Pitt and Kate Moss).
Between the inception of Chuck’s dream and his fame were many opportunities to give in to a fear of inadequacy. The opportunities to give in to fears didn’t come solely from a difficult start in life. You see Chuck is one of the most famous portrait artist even though he suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness) and has been severely paralyzed since 1988.
Instead of living life at its lowest common denominator, Chuck has made a life by taking the power of his inadequacies away and constantly living his life outside his comfort zone.
We have dissonance because we can’t have both positive and negative thoughts at the same time. When we do not deal with the negative emotions, like the fear of inadequacy, we allow them to be like weeds in the garden that use up our valuable resources.
In As A Man Thinketh, James Allen says,
”A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”
Anything you need to put a word on today, Friend?
Rick Burris
Emotional Cheat Sheet

Emotional Cheat Sheet

Floods, wars, politics, earthquakes, hurricanes, financial pressures, tests, deadlines, poor health, sudden loss, expected loss! You and I are going to need some help sorting all of this out. Besides knowing we are loved and not alone, now more than ever, we need emotional intelligence to come along with us as we head out the door for another week. Emotional literacy precedes emotional intelligence. So, I put together this emotional cheat sheet for your eminent emotional intelligence test.
There are five primary emotions from which all other emotions stem.
5 Core Emotions
1. Anger
2. Fear
3. Sadness
4. Joy
5. Sexual
Let the body lead you to emotional awareness.
Locating Emotions
1. Anger – Back, shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, hands
2. Fear – The belly
3. Sadness – Heart, Front of the throat, the eyes
4. Joy – Rising effervescent sensation in the core or up the spine
5. Sexual – Tingling in the erogenous zones, may spread throughout other body parts
Emotions = Energy In Motion
Emotions move through the body in waves with a rise, a crest, and then calm. They are physical sensations, neither good nor bad. All have low to high intensity gradations and combinations.
Repressing v Recycling v Releasing
Un-repressed emotions typically last 90 seconds at most. When we repress one emotion we can influence the flow of other emotions. It is like kinking the hose to stop the flow. Pressure builds up behind the kink. They either then spew out without control or they harden into a mood that can last for years. Anger hardens to bitterness. Fear hardens to anxiety; and sadness hardens to apathy.
Recycling emotions creates a cognitive/emotional loop. The mind plays the same song over and over again. We have the same thoughts and the same feelings. We take the same actions and we get the same consequences.
Feeling our emotions completely is locating them, breathing, and vocalizing them so they release all the way through.
Emotions exist to serve us, not control us. Emotional intelligence is allowing our emotions to flow without judging them. It is receiving the information they are meant to provide and letting it serve our good and the good of others.
Be angry and sin not. Speak the truth in love.


Rick Burris

The Secret Formula

The Secret Formula

What do you believe about success? Is it an art? Are some people just born to be successful and others are not?
Now I can hear my friend Henry saying,
“That depends how you define success.”
Perhaps he would be right, but for the sake of today’s message (which, I will remind you is my gift to you as a member of my General Inner Circle), I will ask you to put your own definition on what success would mean to you in this present moment.
However, I would like to suggest that success requires a change of some kind. Change is about letting go of the known and stepping into the unknown. It appears to involve the possibility of failure; and if so it means somehow releasing control. The kind of change/success I am talking about is radical/transformational; and it can be approach scientifically.
At least that’s the conclusion that Richard Beckhard, organizational theorist (1918-1999) believe when he and David Gleicher put forth the original formula for change in the 1960’s which was then refined in the 1980’s by Kathleen Dannemiller, organizational consultant. Here is the secret formula.

VxD + FS˃R = C

The C, as you have probably guessed, = Change.

R = Resistance
Resistance to change is rooted in fear.
“If I/we change who I am/we are, I am afraid of what will happen (the unknown)”
“If I stop being and doing what I am there is a risk”
Sound familiar. Oh! The stories I could tell you about resistance to change. But I digress. Let’s get back to the formula.
V = Vision – a picture of a preferable future
In the equation, vision must be real, heart-felt, deeply desired, and inspirational.
How big is your vision?
How motivational is your dream?
What is it that you want, really want that you cannot attain by playing the same game?
What is the picture of your future that is so compelling that it motivates you to overcome your resistance to change – to let go of control and step into the unknown?
The answer to these questions is fundamental to motivate you to take all the risks associated with change. But there are other elements involved.
D = Dissatisfaction
Most people don’t change because of vision alone. They change because of pain. There is a dissatisfaction with the status quo. The burning platform isn’t working. However, we have incredible capacity to mask our pain and distract ourselves from it. Entertainment, social media, alcohol, drugs, sex, endless shiny objects that momentarily grab out attention and anesthetize us from ownership of our pain and doing the subsequent activity that moves us to a new place.
Not only that, we can also have entire co-dependent relationships built around a collective collusion with one unwritten code: “I won’t ask you to face your dissatisfaction if you don’t ask me to face mine.”
When you are ready to live more consciously, ask yourself, what is your iceberg?
How am I denying my pain and dissatisfaction?
What conversations am I avoiding with other people and with myself so I can maintain the status quo?
Remember this saying,
“Life first whispers to us in a still small voice. If we don’t listen, it speaks to us firmly and if we avoid these words, it screams at us, often in the form of a crisis or suffering. Life tickles us first, pushes us second, and then hits us over the head with a brick.”
The final piece of the Change Formula is FS.
FS = First Steps
Vision and Dissatisfaction gives us the “Why”. First Steps gives us the “How”.
What was it that Neitzsche said?
He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
When you put V and D together, you are in the arena of your volition, your willingness to press on when resistance rears its head. Willingness to change is not wanting to change. Many people want to change, but most are unwilling. They just want to say they tried.
“Trying is wanting credit for what you never intend to do.” 

Vision x Dissatisfaction + First Steps ˃ Resistance = Change

Keep pressing into change and your breakthrough will come. Remember, Friend, you are loved and never alone on your journey.



Rick Burris

Locating Yourself

Locating Yourself

As you are aware, my development as a leadership coach has recently taken me to the study and application of Conscious Leadership. Here is what I am learning.
Conscious leaders continually ask themselves over and over,

“Where am I?”

Using the simple tool of a horizontal line, at any moment, all people and all leaders are either ABOVE the line or BELOW the line. This is how we are being with what is occurring in our life right now.
The authors of 15 Commitments of a Conscious Leader book suggest that 98% of leaders spend 95% of their time below the line.
When we are above the Line, we are open, curious, and committed to learning. When we are below the line, we are closed, defensive, and committed to being right.
So, stop right now and ask yourself,

“Where am I? In this now moment, am I above the line or below the line?”

Typically, when people are below the line, they believe certain things about the world.
For example, they believe there is not enough – money, time, space, energy and love. People below the line also believe that their story about the situation is right. People below the line also believe that there is a threat out there. Someone or something is threatening their desire for approval, control, or security.
People below the line see the situation as serious. The deeper below the line they are, the more serious thing look. People below the line tend to behave in a certain way too. They tend to cling to an opinion, find fault and blame, gossip, explain, rationalize, justify, get overwhelmed and avoid conflict or pursue conflict for the sake of WINNING.
When people are above the line, they believe that learning and growing are more important than being right. They believe that all people and circumstances are their allies, here for their growth. They believe that, from a distance, everything is funny.
People above the line live in curiosity, listen deeply, speak unarguably, question all their beliefs, and live a life of play.
Now, knowing what you know about being above or below the line,

“Where are you, Friend?”

One thing to know as you consider this question, we are hard-wired to go below the line. Literally, our brain is programmed to perceive threat. When it does, a chemical cocktail courses through our veins and we go below the line. This reaction was designed to help us survive in the presence of a real threat to our physical survival.
An issue for modern-day leaders is that often our brains can’t tell the difference between a threat to our physical survival and a threat to our identity. We react and get defensive when we experience a threat to our ego. So, in many ways, being below the line is natural and normal. Remember the statistics, 98% of leaders spend 95% of their time below the line?
But, when we are below the line, we are not in a state, literally brain state, of high creativity, collaboration, and relational connection. We are simply trying to survive.
Leaders today can’t thrive if they are in survival mode. So, the first activity of conscious leadership is location, location, location. In this now moment,

“Where am I?”

Telling ourselves and others the truth about our current location, begins the great conversation.



Rick Burris

Seriously Fun

Seriously Fun

In his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff, Richard Carlson, PH.D. says,
“We live our lives as if they were one big emergency! We often rush around looking busy, trying to solve problems, but in reality, we are often compounding them.”
Our need to be right and our basic desire for approval, security, and control creates suffering. In other words, it is not our issues that are causing us pain, it is our interpretation of these issues that causes pain. As the Conscious Leadership Group puts it,
“Life doesn’t come with labels, we give life labels.”
When we recognize this about ourselves, there is an option we can choose to restore our perspective and accept reality as it is. Play.
Stuart Brown, author of the book Play, defines play as,
“An absorbing and apparently purposeful activity that provides enjoyment and suspends self-consciousness and a sense of time. It is also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.”
The spirit of play comes from being fully present in the moment and accepting life rather than feeling the need to control it. Embracing this spirit of play can actually change our biology by influencing our autonomic nervous system. When you are ready to learn more about this, go read this incredible post be Dr. Russell Schierling to see how to squash the sympathetic nervous system that our over seriousness and lifestyle choices overstimulate; and see how play can (among other things) can stimulate the parasympathetics.
When you are stressing over an issue (rushing around, looking busy, trying to solve a problem), here are some exercises suggested by the Conscious Leadership Group using play to shift the mood.
  • Argue why you can’t have what you really want.
  • Make a country song that describes your issue and sing a line.
  • Have a 15-second temper tantrum. Include your whole body and make noise.
  • For 30 seconds, hop on one foot and flap your arms while discussing your serious issue.
  • Radically change your body posture and talk about your issue.
  • Sing “I am right and you are wrong.” to the tune of your favorite nursery rhyme.

Be empowered by play today.


Rick Burris

Predicting Success

Predicting Success

“William Glasser: “We learn 10 percent of what we read, 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see, 50 percent of what we see and hear, 70 percent of what we discuss, 80 percent of what we experience, and 95 percent of what we teach others.”
― Bill Capodagli, The Disney Way, Revised Edition: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company

Could someone please tell me when the sequel to The Incredibles movie is coming out? There are so many things I love about that movie and in a roundabout way I have found something new to appreciate.
How can you help but cheer for the entire Incredibles family, but understanding the four competencies that have proven to be the greatest predictors for sustained success, I have a greater respect for one of the instruments of destruction created by Buddy or, as he called himself, Syndrome. The machine was the Omnidroid of the Kronos Project.
Quoting the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership once again.
“Current research shows that over the course of our career, four competencies trump all others as the greatest predictors of sustained success: self-awareness, learning agility, communication, and influence. The last two deal with how leaders interact with their world, and the first two address leaders’ internal relationships to ‘reality.’ “
If you are getting anything as a member of my general inner circle, Friend, it is self-awareness. Not a day goes by that I am not addressing self-awareness in some way. In messages past and those to come you will notice themes of “communication” and “influence” emerging and an overall emphasis on emotional intelligence.

Today, let’s talk about the “F” word.


One of the great messages of The Incredibles is transformation. What brilliance on the part of Disney’s Imagineers to connect to the desire in each of us to experience a life that is better than our current reality. Buddy goes from a wannabe superhero to a self-made super. The Incredible family transforms from a dysfunctional brood to a tightly-knit powerhouse, and each of them has their of story of personal growth and moving into their greatness.
I had no problem connecting with Mr. Incredible’s internal struggle with having gone from greatness to mediocrity. But look at the gift his enemy gave him – a robot with learning agility. Because Syndrome had the insight to create a machine that takes feedback from its environment and processes it to become something more equipped to achieve its goal, so too does Mr. Incredible increase his flexibility both physically, mentally and emotionally.
The key ingredient to Mr. Incredible’s victory over the Omnidroid and his victories on the home front was his learning agility. He didn’t sit back and expect his old tricks or past successes to win the day. Rather he opened himself to applied learning from his present experience.
Nice work Disney! Now get back to work and get us that sequel.

Rick Burris

Save the Drama for Your Mama

Save the Drama for Your Mama

Several weeks ago, I was asked to help lead a teaching session on the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The audience was a group of bright young interns at Cisco Systems in Atlanta. I joined the meeting via a video link. In the room with the interns was fellow John Maxwell team member and Cisco employee, Fu Che.
As the meeting began, Fu said something to the interns that I can only hope they remembered as well as I have. He told them,
“Cisco is NOT responsible for your career.”
How refreshing! I needed someone to say that to me 30 years ago. It is so easy for us to slip into a mindset that someone or something outside of us will magically take care of us and then, when things don’t go the way we want, it is everyone else’s fault.
As I shared yesterday, this “To Me” way of life is where the Conscious Leadership Group estimates that 95% of leaders spend 98% of their time. This “fantasy-land” commitment says,
“I commit to blaming others and myself for what is wrong in the world. I commit to being a victim, villain, or hero and taking more or less than 100% responsibility.”
In the Conscious Living course this is what I describe as the Traffic Jam level of awareness. It is the lowest and most crowded level of leadership.
Here is a familiar pattern of this state of leadership.
1. Something doesn’t go the way I think it should.
2. I become stuck in fear. (Anger often masks fear.)
3. I blame myself, others, or the system. (Sound at all familiar?)
4. Relationships solidify the roles of Victim, Villain, and Hero.
This dynamic is what is labeled the Drama Triangle. It is a fear-based blame/shame/guilt interaction.
This is the trap Fu was encouraging the interns to avoid by simply stating to the Cisco interns where the responsibility for one’s career lies.
The Drama Triangle is caused by the need to be right is so toxic because it siphons the energy necessary for creativity and healthy problem solving out of a system.
The key to knowing whether we are in an unconscious state and likely involved in a Drama Triangle or in a conscious state and living above the line is in the kinds of questions we are asking.
Here is the contrast.

In a Drama culture, leaders ask

“Who did it?”
“Why did it happen?”
“What is the root cause?”
“Who participated in the chain of events that led to this?”
“Who dropped the ball?”
“Who is going to fix it?

(Notice your blood pressure rising as you read that list?)

Here are the questions leaders ask in a curiosity/learning culture.

“Am I willing to take full responsibility for this situation?”
“What do I really want?”
“If there were no obstacles, what would I be doing with my creative energy?”
Am I willing to learn whatever I most need to learn about this situation?”
Am I willing to see all others as my allies?”
“Am I willing to see myself as empowered in this situation?”
“How can I play with this situation?”
“Where/when do I feel most alive?”
“What am I distracting myself from doing or knowing?”

Real transformation takes place when we choose to take 100% responsibility. This is when we practice co-creating our experiences.


Rick Burris

To Me or By Me

To Me or By Me

To Me or By Me – That is the question

Whether I come to the keyboard locked and loaded, knowing exactly where the message is going; or agonized over what to say next, writing always offers me the chance of more personal growth. There is always more to learn and through this process, I trust value is being added to you and those you influence.

Today, I continue reflecting on the content of the 15 Commitments of a Conscious Leader. Conscious leadership involves recognizing when you are below the line and consciously making a shift that moves you from being closed to being open, from defensive to curious, from wanting to be right to wanting to learn, and from fighting for survival of the ego to leading from a place of security and trust.

The growth of a conscious leader is not necessarily one that progresses through developmental stages, but rather practices self-awareness to answer,

“Where am I leading from?”

The authors suggest four “states” from which you can lead:

To Me
By Me
Through Me
As Me

You will have to read the book to see what information is provided on Through Me and As Me. There are descriptions provided, however, the focus of the book is on shifting from “To Me” to “By Me”. Here are some key distinctions.

To Me Leadership

Below the Line / Unconscious
95% of leaders spend 98% of their time in this state.
I see myself as “at the effect of”
The cause of my condition is outside me. It is happening TO me.
I believe I am being acted upon by outside forces.
External realities are responsible for my happiness.
I have a “Victim Consciousness”.
I am constantly looking to the past to attach blame for my current circumstances.
Something is wrong and someone else is to blame.

Do you ever go there? Me too. Far too often but, remember, these are states not stages. The key isn’t so much that you are below the line. It is recognizing you are below the line and then making a shift. He is what “By Me” leadership looks like.

By Me Leadership

This is a shift to being above the line.
It is a move from “Victim Conscious” to “Creator Conscious”.
It is a shifting from “at-the-effect-of” to consciously creating with.
To me = Something should be different / By Me see everything unfolding my learning and development.
It is being curious v being right.

The gateway of moving from To Me to By Me is taking radical responsibility for your life.

Here are the four questions a “By Me” leader asks.

What can I learn from this?
How is this situation for me?
How am I creating this?
How am I keeping it going?

If personal growth is important to you (and I am certain it is since you are reading this), I recommend looking at the results you have in every area of your life (marriage and family life, friendships, community involvements, work life, etc.) and asking these four questions. That is what I have been doing and it is eye-opening!


Rick Burris

Fact v Story

Fact v Story

Are You Sticking With That Story?

Fact v Story

As both a student and practitioner of leadership, I have to say that this has been one of the most paradigm-shifting books I have ever studied. The premise of the book is demonstrated by a single horizontal line. At any given moment, we are either living unconsciously BELOW the line, or consciously ABOVE the line. In the coming days, I will have more to explain about what this means. But, let me share just one tidbit with you related to the stories we create.

Have you ever been in a public setting and noticed a stranger was looking at you? You know, that awkward moment when you make eye contact with someone who was not expecting you to look their way. You can tell instantly that they have been looking at you for a while in a curious sort of way.

It happens all the time. We are both viewer and viewee several times per day. What is taking place in these moments is our brains functioning as they were designed. It is the constant dance of our conscious mind and our subconscious mind and it is fascinating stuff to ponder.

According to information from The Biology of Belief by Dr Bruce Lipton. The subconscious mind can process 20,000,000 bits of info per second. The conscious mind can only process 40 bits of info/sec. So the subconscious mind can process 500,000 times faster than the conscious mind.

Dethmer, Chapman, and Kemp in The 15 Commitments of a Conscious Leader do a fantastic job of describing why and how this process is important to leadership. It is the difference between FACT and STORY.

Our subconscious minds take FACTS (unarguable information like he is wearing a black T shirt, cargo shorts, and a visor while filling up his Chevy Tahoe), and turns it into a STORY. He must be skipping work and heading out to play golf, for example.

We naturally take facts and interpret them. We give facts meaning by adding our judgements, opinions, and beliefs. But, our stories are made up. They are not true. They are simply the way we see the world.

Think about it. You take facts about yourself, other people and situations (past, present AND future) and make up stories about them.

FACT: I weigh five pounds less than one month ago.

STORY: I must be healthier.

FACT: That person is overweight.

STORY: They must be lazy and undisciplined.

FACT: That employee is a millennial.

STORY: He/She is going to be an entitled self-absorbed person who doesn’t know the value of hard work and loyalty.

FACT: Our quarterly sales are down 5%.

STORY: The sales team is slacking. (Or the favorite) It’s the economy.

And on and on it goes…, but as Dethmer, Chapman, and Kemp point out,

“Conscious leaders make a clear distinction between facts and the stories they make up about the facts.”

What would change for you if you could regularly separate fact from story?


Rick Burris

Conscious Leadership Overview

Conscious Leadership Overview

The 15 Commitments of a Conscious Leader has been one of the most paradigm-shifting books I have ever studied. Perhaps, a more complete depiction is that it has been both paradigm-shifting and paradigm confirming. Among other reasons, the study of this book has added value to me is because it both reinforces my training and experience as a leadership coach; and it also challenges me to examine my habits, thoughts, beliefs and agendas. Not only does it make me want to be a more conscious leader, it also offers proven descriptions, definitions, and demonstrations of conscious and unconscious leadership in a manner that is easily understandable. There are several relevant takeaways I hope to share but here is a quick overview of the contrasts between conscious and unconscious states of leadership.
To begin, the book authors state that, from their experience 95% of leaders spend 98% of their time below the line as their default mode of operation. They clarify that being above or below the line is binary. In any given moment, we are either above the line and consciously leading or below the line and unconsciously leading. Here are a few other distinctions.
The primary commitment of someone below the line is being right. Whereas, the primary commitment of a leader above the line is learning.

Unconscious v Conscious

Unconscious Leaders are closed and defensive. .Conscious Leaders are open and curious

The goal/outcome of unconscious leadership is the survival of the ego. Creativity, innovation, and collaboration occur above the line.
Leaders above the line are happier, healthier. Leaders below the line are reactive.
Above the line attention is paid to context of interactions and communication. Below the line attention is given to the content of communication.
Presences or “showing up” in the moment drives behaviors above the line. Regret about the past, toxic fear, and greed for the future drive behaviors.
Just a sample to pique your interest and give you something to ponder today. For a complete list (PDF) and other conscious leadership resources you can click HERE. Keep in mind that what is more important than being below the line is being aware of when you are below the line so that you can make a shift quickly.


Rick Burris