All That Heavenly Glory
Let Us Pray

Let Us P(r)ay

This was years ago.

I’m sitting with the company CEO, and we’re spitballing ideas. Brainstorming. Mindmapping.

It was, by far, the best part of the job. The most fun.

The vision casting.

“But what we really have to do is figure out why people think our brand is cool.”

Our brand?

I hadn’t thought much of the word before, and it wasn’t used as much back then, but it was what I like to call a “moment of clarity” for me.

The truth was, there was a lot involved in making the brand cool. First, we shouldn’t call it cool, but I digress. It’s about the genre (fighting), the positioning (the best and most expensive), the tagline (“Be Inspired”), and most importantly, the devoted fans, including those receiving a paycheck (a melting pot of all cultures, classes, and creeds unified by a love of martial arts).

But what made people want to wear our t-shirts on a leisurely weekend out on the town? Heck, why did we do it?

What made people halfway across the world, people who have never stepped foot into one of our gyms, want to buy and represent our brand?

Why would they tattoo the company logo on their arm?

It’s so simple, so obvious, it can only be true.

It’s all about the promises we made (and kept).

And how we made them feel.


Not too long ago, our family was in the market for a new car. Newborn turned to toddler, which means the days of sedans, even big ones, made less and less sense.

The morning we were to go on an extended vacation, I had the wild idea to go and take a look at a car an hour north of us. There’s plenty of time, I surmised, as I sped up the interstate to take a test drive, leaving wife behind shaking her head, but unsurprised.

I didn’t buy the car.

But I got a great story.

The salesman was a nice man. He was from our town. Grew up right around where we lived. Or maybe he was trying to build a connection, build rapport. Who knows. I didn’t mind either way.

He was probably in his late 50s or early 60s. A 30-year car salesman. A seller. A closer. As he was typing away at his screen, running numbers, I noticed a big, chunky, gold ring on his finger.

Trying to build rapport myself (this is a car deal, right?), I told him I liked his ring and asked if it was a class ring.

He thanked me for the compliment and said, no, but informed me happily that the makers of class rings actually did custom-make this ring for him.

What was the ring for, I asked.

To commemorate his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Another moment of clarity.

Did he still own the bike?

Oh yes. Loves it. Rides it all the time.

So why does he have a ring on his finger to remind him of it?


We all get down on one knee.

For certain things.

To propose to a lover. To see what’s under the Christmas Tree. Even, these days, as a political statement.

But we also get down on a knee to say we love things.

Some of us wear a ring on our finger to signify a lifelong bond to an idea, or a product.

To a brand.

We could call it brand loyalty, but buying a ring to remember a bike you still own is a bit more than that. It’s a bit beyond love, even.

It’s worship.

It’s blasphemous, but true. It’s true.

What would make someone worship their Harley?

What does Harley bring to its followers? What does it promise?

Freedom, power, speed, masculinity.

What does owning a Harley make you?

A rebel. An outlaw. A man’s man. Or an empowered woman. A patriot.

“There’s just nothing like it,” the car salesman explains, unable to explain. Oh, I get it, I assure him. And I do.

I do get it.

And I can’t help but feel torn about the whole thing. Equal parts happy that the guy found what he was looking for, and sad that the guy found what he was looking for in an inanimate object.

The fact that he wasn’t wearing a ring representing the makers of the car dealership he worked for was just icing on an otherwise enjoyable, and instructional, cake.

The Secret Sauce

“If we can figure out why people think it’s cool to wear our stuff, train at our gyms, and use our gear, our growth will be limitless.” He smiled widely, waiting for my reply. The only thing missing was a big, gold ring.

I didn’t have a good answer then. I was just a kid who had and enjoyed big ideas.

Here’s what I have learned since, from salesmen and saints:

We all worship something.

Be it God, or something less than God.

Take a look around, inside, outside, and on yourself.

Who or what do you worship?

Do you know why?

What do they promise you? How do the promises make you feel?

Do they keep them?

In the end, let us pray we all believe in something a bit more than getting what we pay for.

Color tour trees


The best season is fall.

The fall.

I used to capitalize it, the Fall, because it meant so much. And because of the way we had to capitalize the seasons in school: Fall semester. Spring term. So much for an English major.

But mostly, I capitalized it because the seasons felt bigger, more important, than lowercase standing bestowed.


There’s nothing like the cool breeze, hinting at winter. Hinting that you better hurry. The leaves turning burnt shades of gold and paprika, and falling, falling, everywhere. My son gleefully seeks them out. Pouncing on them to hear the satisfactory crunch between his toes.

His giggles. My wife’s smile, hugging herself with a cup of tea.


A pair of trusty jeans.

I’m good, I’m good.

It’s the best.

Color Tour

Autumn’s the best season, for whatever reason, for nostalgia. And as futuristic as I fancy myself, a lot of me is in my memories.

And now’s the time I remember. Reflect.

It’s important to do so.

Every four seasons, or so.

To play it all back.

How did we do?

What did we learn?

Remember that time when?

It’ll be winter soon enough. The holidays will come and we’ll toast another year gone by.

But for now, it’s the best time of the year.

To pounce on a Golden Leaf, or two, with the Ones You Love.

Champion Leader

Champion Leader

What’s your quest?

What’s the end game of your long game?

What do you want to have done after you are all done?

I want you to be a champion leader.

Al, Stop Making Up Phrases

First of all, don’t call me Al.

And second, a “champion leader” is a thing. It is!

Well, it is now.

You can be a champion without being a leader. And you can be a leader without being a champion. We have all borne witness. The superstar rogue winning a zero sum game, achieving artistry but leaving behind a trail of hellfire blazing behind them. And the inept naked emperor waving a golden goblet overflowing with penny wisdom.

All of which to say, you can be the best at all costs. And you can lead on a porcelain throne.

But should you?

What are the choices, then. Should you strive to be a leader or a champion?


Well, it’s simple really. You should be both.

You should be both.

Championship Leadership

A real champion wins the right way. A true leader inspires the right way. A champion leader inspires people to win the long game of life. They do it by uplifting those special men and women fighting the good fight, the champions, around them.

There are champions everywhere around you. Do you see them?

How often have you found that the very best kind of people are the hardest on themselves? The best and brightest champions need people who believe in them. Who pick them up when they fall down. Who look them in the eye and speak encouragement without wa(i)ver.

I believe in you.

Champions need help. I want you to help them. Don’t assume they get their entire confidence internally. They might get a lot there, but a pat on the back and a sincere “you are doing a wonderful thing here” is as heartwarming and life-sustaining as a boiling bowl of Korean stew in the middle of a Lake Effect winter.

You are doing a wonderful thing here.

Life is a long game. Play it as the champion leader.

The Five Stages of Competence

Have you heard of the four stages of competence?

It’s a learning model that describes the process of skill progression from ignorance to eventual mastery.

It’s a great way to figure out how we learn anything.

Everyone starts at the beginning. Where you don’t know what you don’t know. As you recognize your incompetence, you consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill is utilized without thought.

But to me, there’s something missing.

A fifth stage that trips most of us up. A hidden stage. A trap door.

Let’s back up.

The Four Stages

Here’s the original model for learning:

Unconscious Incompetence

We all start here. We do not know how to do something. And not only that, we do not know we do not know. We are just blissfully ignorant. Think newborns. Think about your earliest memories.

Your first steps.

When you were born, you did not know how to walk, and you didn’t even know you didn’t know. It simply was not on your radar. People came to you and that was enough. Until…

Conscious Incompetence

Here, you started to realize you didn’t know how to walk. Maybe you saw other kids walking around. Saw your parents running around. Suddenly, you realize that others are doing something you cannot do. And you want to do it. You see how important it is to be able to get up and go go go.

As a result, lots of your attempts to stand up and walk “fail,” and crash landings on butt and knees result. These “failures” in the second stage of the learning model are necessary to get to the next stage.

This is huge. Failure is a necessary component of mastery.

How many perfectionists do you know who are afraid to try something new? And how many grinders do you know who get a twinkle in their eye when they fall in the mud?

Conscious Competence

That magical day. When you learn to walk. You know how to do it. It may be wobbly, and you might wear a furrowed brow of concentration or stick out the tongue of deep focus, but you can walk now. You have conscious competence. The more you do it, the more you approach the final step of the four stages.

Unconscious Competence

You have walked enough that it’s second nature. You’re sprinting now. A hellion on two legs. You simply don’t think about it anymore. You just go go go. You have mastered the skill of walking. You have learned that to walk you have to learn you can’t walk first. Then you learn how to walk. Then you forget you know how to walk and just freakin’ walk. From zygote to toddler. A grandmaster at age two.

But there’s a missing stage. It usually happens to us somewhere in between the first two stages. Keeping us from learning the correct lesson.

The Fifth Stage

Conscious Limiting Beliefs

Most of us get stuck on our path of learning on this fifth stage. This platform of false truths. Your false truths. Your limiting beliefs about the world and yourself.

I could never be an entrepreneur because I tried once and failed.

Dreams are for kids.

Security is a 9 to 5 job. Retirement is a 401k.

Because I keep falling down, I will never learn how to walk.

Mark Twain described it best: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

It is what you know for absolutely certainty, that is absolutely dead wrong, that is limiting your life. Not unconscious incompetence, but conscious limitation.

Rather than not knowing what you don’t know, your conscious limiting beliefs are the real reason most of us fall astray of our path. The things we know for sure, that are positively not so.

Can you imagine where you would be if you believed as a child that because you kept falling down while learning to walk, you simply were incapable of learning how to walk? That walking was meant for others? That falling down was simply your reality?

Remember your tenacity. Remember how failure is part of the process. Treat everything as a grand experiment. A grand attempt at learning a new way to see. Or walk.

It all starts with baby steps. And it sometimes ends with grownup lies.

What’s holding you back?

Is it what you don’t know?

Is it what you do know?

Is it really true, what you’re so very certain you know?

Or is it something else.

Something. That.

Just. Ain’t. So.

Daring Spirit Alex Chung

Daring Spirit

Character, defined as a person’s essential qualities, is a great word. An aspirational word. Something to become. Something to be.

It comes from the greek word, kharaktēr, an old tool used to stamp a name or symbol onto an object to give it a distinctive mark.

We could call it a brand, and some do, but really, we are talking about character.

Your character.

Who are you, boiled down, distilled, to your essence?

Do you have an essential, guiding, quality that you live by? And if not, might I suggest a possible north star to lead you when you are lost?

Use the (Real) Force, Luke

There is, inside of us all, a force. This force gives us life, energy, and power to do bold, brave things. If we didn’t know any better, we would think it foolhardy, but we do. We do know better.

So we call it daring spirit.

When we see it in action, we rise and applaud. When we see it in ourselves, we are elevated. We touch our fingertips on heaven’s door. We actualize.

This audaciously venturesome force, this character trait, is within all of us.

But it’s a muscle.

And some have a well-developed, well-conditioned, daring spirit, and others have an atrophied, withered, seen-better-days one.

But we all have it. And if you have it, you can use it. And by using it, it will grow stronger.

That is the virtue of character.

Of using what is essential about you to further what is essential about you.

To have character is to live with it.


Fortune favors the bold. And he who dares, wins.

Be bold. Brave. Adventurous. Trust in what you cannot see, touch, smell, hear, and taste. Trust what you can only feel inside yourself. That inner fire. That inner spark. The one you maybe didn’t have a name for before today.

It is in your nature, in your character, to be a daring spirit.

Do you believe it?

And what is a life well-lived, except as an epic, an odyssey, a fairy tale, an adventure?

And who dares live it?

Not many. Not many at all.

How about you there?

Do you dare?