4003 – Eat, Sleep & Make Money (In That Order)


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (illustrated to the left) isn’t the only list of purported needs. Famed American psychologist Edward L. Thorndike did his own research on the needs of mankind. And there are others.

Each of them have their merits, and proponents – as well as critics.

You’re always looking for an edge. Some insight. That’s what Maslow put at the top of his pyramid.

According to him, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got those four other things underneath your feet first.

Watch any survival reality show and the evidence is clear. They always go after the first two blocks of the pyramid. The basic essentials have to be in place before you can think about anything else.

No food. No safe place to sleep. Nothing else matters!

The guy talks about all his credit card debt. It’s approaching $10,000. He’s battling to find enough cash flow to buy food. Forget the house. It’s gone. The car? His mom gave him hers.

He’s got dreams of making it big. There’s a SasS (software as a service) business in his head that he knows can earn millions. Maybe. Maybe not.

So far, he’s got a bunch of notes, some drawings, a mindmap or two and seemingly, a lot of misplaced optimism.

Guys like him are all around. You see them on the Internet posting comments, clapping every time their favorite guru says something remotely intelligent. They’re the people in the stands who buy the tickets, enroll in the courses, cram themselves into conference rooms and look wide-eyed at the Internet celebrities who have “made it.”

It’s their credit card debt that may helping some marketers generate 5-figure monthly revenues.

As for our future Saas entrepreneur, he’s among the ranks of many I’ve seen in the past ten years. I watch with heightened curiosity, hoping he figures it out soon. I’m not optimistic though. Not because I’m a pessimist, but because I’ve seen this movie before. It just hardly ever ends well. It’s not a comedy. It’s a tragedy.

Lately, I’m not in much mood for tragedies.

He says he doesn’t want to work for anybody ever again. Nobody gets rich, nobody is successful if they work for the man. Or WOman.

He believes it. Evidence? He’s always worked for the man and he’s poor as Job’s turkey.

Today’s show is about two (just 2) big ideas. They’re not complicated, but they are profound. They may be just what you need, too – because there just aren’t very many of us who don’t need them.


4002 – Without The Field, There Are No Champions (All Super Heroes Need A Nemesis)

Strength of the champion is determined by strength of the field

Competition is a dirty word among a large number of younger entrepreneurs. Admittedly, I don’t get it. But I’m no longer a young entrepreneur. Besides that, I grew up in retailing where it was dog eat dog.

When I was about 27 I was courted by a large retailer out of the west coast. During an interview at DFW International Airport I was asked about how I viewed merchandising. In particular, I was asked how I felt about retail pricing. Not knowing exactly what the CEO meant, I paused and listened. Without allowing time for a response, and realizing that his question was clear as mud, he said, “We want our competition to open the paper and choke on their coffee at how low our prices are.”

Even though I had over a decade of retailing expertise by this point, I had a keen awareness of how to be profitable in retailing. I knew if you were not the low cost leader, with all the associated scope and scale kind of advantages (think Wal-Mart), then it was a losing game. By the way, without answering his question, I politely informed him that I wasn’t likely the guy he was looking for. After a nice visit we boarded our respective planes and went our separate ways. Within a few years his company filed bankruptcy.

There are winners and losers in every area of endeavor. We see it most vividly in sports because there are televised games that have a beginning, an end and a scoreboard. We know who won. We know who lost. Some games come down to the wire. Others appear to be over early on.

Championships, on the other hand, are usually determined over a prolonged series of competitions. Wal-Mart began in  a little Arkansas town, Rogers, back in 1962. By 1980 they had reached the billion dollar mark, the fastest any company had reached that milestone. In 1983 the first Sam’s Club was built in Midwest City, OK and in 1988 the first Wal-Mart SuperCenter opened combining general merchandise with a full-blown grocery store. In 1990 Wal-Mart was the champion, the number one retailer! It took them 28 years and during that time they bested various competitors. Today, they’re still battling hard against discount chains and grocery chains. In retailing, champions don’t last forever. Study a company you’ve never heard of called Korvettes.

Champions need competition. Good competition. If the competition is weak, the championship is considered weak.

Already I’ve heard some in tennis talking about the men’s and women’s Wimbledon champions. Many big name players were eliminated early on. A few commentators have noted that the current champions had a path to the championship that may be unlikely in the future. I don’t know about that because I’m not a tennis expert, but I understand the concept. If the field is weak, the champion doesn’t stand out quite as much.

Fact is, champions need the field. If there is no field – no competition – then there can be no champion.


Of or being a situation in which the outcome benefits each of two often opposing groups

Guaranteeing a favourable outcome for everyone involved

I have no idea who first came up with the “win-win” phrase, but it was likely a politician or a savvy negotiator. Whoever it is, I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them. They’ve likely set the world record for duping people.

It’s a pleasant thought. Nobody loses. Everybody wins.

It’s a lie.

No, it’s  not impossible for everybody to come out ahead in a single scenario, but we can’t all be champions. A few weeks ago the Dallas Stars Hockey Club facillitated a trade with the Boston Bruins. Both teams traded away skilled players in order to get from the other, different skilled players. Most hockey experts felt each team did well and improved their roster. However, many feel Dallas may end up with the better of it IF the main player involved, Tyler Seguin, pans out. He’s only 21 and has a reputation as party animal. Minor details, right?

The point is, even in a situation like this, where people feel it may have been a win-win, most believe one team got the better end of the deal. True win-win scenarios seem quite impossible.

Not everybody can reside in first place. That podium only has room for one team, one company, one person. Only one champion.

Life Is Not Fair Or Equal

I’m guessing it may have been about the same time, but I can’t be sure. Somewhere along the way the collective idiocy began to concentrate on Little Johnny. You know, Little Johnny, needs to feel better about himself. We need to boost Little Johnny’s self-esteem. It’s really not right for him to play soccer (or any other sport, or any other endeavor whatsoever) and not get rewarded for it. After all, life rewards us all for just existing, right?

We need to teach Little Johnny that he can feel good even if he did finish last. Or make the worst grade. Or fail to learn. Or disobey his parents. Or break the law. Or lie, cheat and steal.

“Oh, Little Johnny, here’s your trophy. You did so good.” Parents line up lying like Rocky and Rosie on the floor of The Yellow Studio. Johnny got soundly whipped. In fact, he didn’t even make a very good showing, but we lavish him with praise because we need to teach him that in the real world, everybody wins!

The problem is, Johnny is going to grow up, get slammed in the face with reality, then wonder why the adults in his life lied to him. And he’ll hate them for it, too if he’s got an ounce of self-respect.

Here’s the deal.

If everybody wins, does anybody really win?

No. If everybody wins, then there is no winner. Everybody can be a loser though, and there we go. That’s the point of it all, don’t you see. To elevate losing to the status of winning so everybody can feel better about themselves.

I encountered some new Discovery Channel show called Street Outlaws. It’s about illegal street racing (is there any other kind, really?) in Oklahoma City. There’s a top 10 list. There’s a race master who keeps track and coordinates it all, including handling securing a place where they can conduct business. Guys on the list can “call out” the guy ahead of them and the race master will schedule the head to head challenge. These guys are serious street racers investing thousands of dollars into their vehicles.

In one episode the #2 guy calls out the #1 guy. Seems the #1 guy has been the top dog for about 3 years. Mr. #2 has worked for a long time to prepare to knock off the champ.

The first scheduled race can’t happen because the champ has a mechanical problem with the car. According to the rules these guys live by, #2 guy can assume the top spot, but he confronts the champ and tells him, “I don’t want it like that. I want to beat you.” What a guy. But I admired him for it. He’s an idiot for street racing, but he’s got principles. Oh, he’s got a wife and teenage daughters, too.

Well, the second scheduled race can’t happen. Tire problem for the champ. Again, #2 has the chance to snag the top spot without even firing up his car. He refuses.

Is this making sense to you now?

Mr. #2 knew that being the champion was worthless unless he beat Mr. #1. What good is the championship if somebody gives it to you, or if you get it without really earning it? It’s not and he knew that. At some point he expressed his desire to be the best by defeating the best. There it is.

If the top dog beats the #10 guy, farmtruck – big deal. He’s #10, you should beat him. But that’s not how champions are made.

So #2 finally races #1. And #2 won, ending the 3-year reign of the existing champ. After the race he said, “I’m gonna enjoy this for as long as I’ve got it.” He also indicated he’s going to work like crazy to keep it. That’s what competition is all about.

He could have had the championship two weeks earlier, but it would come by forfeiture, not by beating the existing champ. That’s no way to win.

It’s about as unsatisfying as getting a trophy simply because you showed up.

But before you go throwing rocks at me because you ignorantly think my philosophy is win at all costs — hang on! The field matters. The champion on Street Outlaws, or your rec softball league, or your bowling league, or anything else is determined by the strength of the competition. The competition matters!

Without all the guys under the champion, the Street Outlaw champion has nothing to brag about. If he’s fast as a blue blaze, but the other guys are all wannabe Speed Racers, what good is his championship?

We want the strongest field possible to compete against.

Every super hero needs a nemesis.


4001 – Mini-Bikes, Stereo Gear And Microphones: A Love Affair With Gadgets


“I’m not young enough to know everything.”
― J.M. Barrie, The Admirable Crichton



They’re synonymous.


Two of my favorite G words, although I am particularly fond of the word gynotikolobomassophile.*

Gadgets and gizmos, as I use those terms, don’t refer to things with names I don’t know, or can’t recall. Rather, gadgets and gizmos are cool tools and useful, if not necessary, items. I’m thinking of sunglasses, pens, watches, bicycles, flashlights, headphones, recorders and so much more!

Inside The Yellow Studio

Today I’m surrounded by gadgets and gizmos. A quick cursory count of buttons on my audio mixers and processors inside The Yellow Studio reaches 160. There are 142 sliders or knobs and well over 80 jacks. These are just some of the components that make up gadgets and gizmos. It’s impossible to have a good gadget or gizmo in a studio that lacks buttons, knobs, sliders or jacks!

I’ve got four microphones around here: 2) Heil PR40’s, 1) EV RE50B and 1) RODE NTG2. I’ve also got at least 2 lavaliere mics: 1) Audio-Technica ATR-3350 and 1) Giant Squid (you gotta have a gizmo named, Giant Squid).

I’ve got an Edirol R09HR digital recorder. Somewhere I’ve got a little Olympus digital recorder. Headphones abound. A Jawbone blutooth device is around here some place…and so much more!

I got to looking around here, thinking about my life with gadgets and gizmos and all the fun times I’ve had with them. I’m not a terribly materialistic person, but I confess that I’ve had a lifelong love affair with gadgets and gizmos.

Two Of The Most Important Gadgets Of My Childhood

See that Deluxe Schwinn Sting-Ray® in the upper lefthand corner of that ad? I had one just like that. Same color and everything. Ten bucks more and I could have the Super Deluxe, but it was a gift from my parents. They weren’t Super Deluxe kind of people, but I was thrilled anyway.

No matter, my mobility factor skyrocketed since I had been previously been limited to using my PF Flyers to get about. Now, me and my PF Flyers could ride in style and comfort that only a banana seat on a Sting-Ray could provide.

When I was 15 I saved my money for what seemed like forever so I could buy a GAF Super 8 movie camera. It was among the first major purchases I remember making. It was almost $200 so I vividly remember going to the store to buy it. One 40′ roll of film, which required professional processing, would last about 2-1/2 minutes. Then you had to have a projector and a screen (or a white sheet hung up on the wall) to show it. If you wanted home movies, you needed lots of gadgets. And time. And money. That was the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Today, I’ve got at least 5 digital video devices within reach of me as I type this. A built in webcam (that’s 1). An external webcam (that’s 2). An iPhone (that’s 3). A Kodak Zi8 sitting nearby (that’s 4) and a Canon point and shoot camera that will also shoot video (that’s 5). Three of the five (maybe 4) will shoot in HD.

We don’t make home movies any more. We shoot video.

This Magazine Was A Game Changer

A classmate showed me a Playboy magazine when I was in 2nd grade, but that’s not the magazine that was a game changer for me. Well, at least I don’t think it was. I was mostly horrified at the time because I knew it was wrong. I told my parents about it when I got home. My dad and I drove to the kid’s house who brought it to school. I sat in the car while my father confronted his dad. The kid’s mom was our 2nd grade teacher. I’m guessing that’s why my dad decided to confront the boy’s father. It didn’t go anywhere. Turns out his dad didn’t much care.

Few things fascinated me more than the cool stuff you could buy in the back of Popular Science magazine. Pages of little classified ads and small display ads filled with terrific items that every boy just had to have. Mostly, I lusted after the mini-bikes, telescopes, stereos and recording devices. Thus began my fascination with things I could ride, see and hear. Not much has changed really.

Popular Science was great for gadget seeking. I loved that magazine. It was always full of futuristic, cool stuff. Fascinating stuff. Stuff you didn’t see any place else. Gadgets and gizmos. Cool stuff. The kind of stuff you could do cool things with. Xray glasses and everything.

It was the kind of magazine that could fuel a young imagination. And at times, it could fool our imaginations, too.

There was the time Stanley and I gave serious consideration to digging a tunnel between our two houses. Only a city park separated our houses. Why not? We’d make it a railway tunnel. We’d seen those hand trucks on the railroads and figured we could single-handedly work one of those babies to and from each others house.

“Why a tunnel?” you ask. Because it would keep us off the street, where our parents forbade us to go. When you’re not yet in first grade you’re only left with two options, dig or fly. We didn’t know how to fly.

Why we thought our parents would allow us to embark on the dangers of tunnel digging when they wouldn’t let us cross the street alone…well, preschoolers lack such logic. Our leaning toward wisdom was a very minor tilt at this point in our lives.

Fast forward a few years and you could understand how mini-bikes rose to the top of the lust list for useful gadgets. We could ride bikes. One with a motor would be all the better. Way more fun, too. And mini, too. How cool is that?

Our parents never allowed us to have a mini-bike. I’d be older, another state away in a new city living next door to a pack of renegades before I’d ever sneak my first ride on a mini-bike. It’s fun to live next door to kids whose parents aren’t as careful as your own. Dangerous, perhaps. But fun. I became a mini-bike riding fool. The neighbor’s backyard was like a dirt track for the mini-bike. Except with pine trees.

By the way, those ads touting how much fun mini-bikes were? Man, they weren’t lying. Most truthful advertising known to man!

You Gotta Have Tools…Okay, You Want The Tools

Tools soon became convenient, if not necessary, summer time gadgets. No fort, treehouse, boat, scooter, cart or animal trap could be built without them. Some days we spent more time scavenging for just the right gadget (i.e. tool) than we did using them, but that was half the fun. Or more.

We used gadgets daily in our houses. Everybody I knew had a TV set with a pair of Vice-Grips® . The channel knob got the most use, so it broke the most often. When it did, dad got the Vice-Grips and we were up and running again. When electronic tuners arrived on TV sets I’m certain the sale of Vice-Grips® fell dramatically.

Every child of the 50’s and 60’s was happy to see the TV remote control become commonplace. That gadget replaced forever more the human TV remote, kids.

Me, My Dad And A South Carolina Hillbilly Know Cool Lights

I love flashlights, lamps and other cool lighting. You know a cool lighting gadget? Those desk lamps on NCIS. TV shows have some of the coolest gadgets on the planet. It helps to have a hi-end production budget.

There have been many noteworthy lights in my gadget life. An early one was a Valentine’s Day present from my dad. He brought home a flashlight that had a red flashing bulb on one end of the handle. Every kid needs a cool flashlight. It seems I always had a few. That one was special.

During junior high I had a different kind of light that got heavy daily use. It was a light box connected to my stereo system. It had about 6 different colors inside that pulsated with the music. Since I was a headphone freak from an early age, that was the only disappointing thing…the light only worked through the speakers. That box got hours and hours of daily use because my stereo system was playing a lot. My record albums wore out from repeated plays, but that light never did burn out.

A few years ago I bought some speakers from a South Carolina hillbilly named Ed Schilling. Talk about a gadget freak. Show me an audiophile though and I’ll show you a gadget freak. My hand is in the air!

Well, Ed calls me up one day and says, “You got a hundred bucks laying around?” He proceeds to tell me about this ridiculously cool green laser pointer that had insane power. He sounded more excited about that green light than anything we had discussed about audio gear. And he was amped up (pun intended) about the First Watt amps, but this green light trumped them. Ed had convinced me to buy some of those amps and those investments proved to true. Boy did they make his speakers sing! He had never steered me wrong and when a South Carolina gadget nut who reminds you of Hunter S. Thompson tells you, “You gotta getcha one” – well, you gotta get cha one.

So I get this little green light. That was long before authorities were arresting idiots for shining them at airplanes blinding pilots.

The first night I got the light, I went outside, shined it up into the sky (making sure there were no airplanes) and the beam of green light just seemed to go on and on and on forever. It was truly amazing. Ed was onto something. Again.

Pen lights, tactical flashlights, LED lights, fluorescent desk lamps, key chain lights – I’ve been fascinated by them all. And more.

There Is No Cure For Gadget Lust (not that I’m looking for one)

I still love gadgets and the fun stuff you can do with them. Not much has changed for me. It’s still about riding, looking, listening and recording. It’s about building and creating.

My wish list over at Sweetwater changes pretty regularly. Okay, it doesn’t so much change. I add to it.

I’ve got a rather long Amazon wishlist, too.

Here’s the thing – the quality of my life is enhanced by gadgets and gizmos. 

Some have been expensive – stereo gear and the professional audio gear Inside The Yellow Studio – but even that stuff is less money than a basic car or a room full of cheap furniture.

Many of the gadgets of my past were stereo or audio related. I’ve owned some terrific audio gear. Most recently, a pair of Ed’s speakers, a few First Watt amps, a heavily modified Sony CD player with a tube output section and more. I don’t own any of those things now. I sold them when I could no longer use them because I just didn’t have a room where I could use them. It doesn’t seem right to have cool gadgets boxed away. They need to be able to do the cool things for which they were designed.

I miss the stereo gear very much. But having stereo gear that can’t be used – regularly – isn’t right.

Lots of people buy gadgets, use them once, then forget about them. That’s not how it should be. Gadgets need to be used. Ongoing. Repeatedly.

Gadgets need to be put to work!

The work is mostly creative and fun.


one who nibbles on women’s earlobes

We Still Ride With Enthusiasm

Ballard Street

I’m not quite certain when we met. She attended a congregation where my best friend’s father served as the evangelist. Surely I’d met her during a trip to visit him, but I can’t remember.

I do remember asking her out on a date in July. It was 1975, I think. But now that I’m old I’m not positive about that year. I am sure of the circumstances and the event. It was a church meeting in Oklahoma. I’d driven up from Baton Rouge. She arrived with friends from Ft. Worth. It was an annual event that I had attended my entire life. I didn’t recall her ever being there, until that year.

I had asked my best friend about her. What kind of girl is she? What kind of sense of humor does she have? The typical questions I asked. He bragged about her. Said he liked her quite a lot, not like I was hoping to, but as a good friend. She was good friends with his sister. She was easy to get along with, not stuck up and had a good sense of humor.

He wanted to know if I was going to ask her out on a date. I told him I was thinking about it. He told me I should.

I did.

For the next few days we were a couple. I didn’t know about her, but I knew I was in love. Falling harder every day.

At the end of the meeting we all drove to Ardmore, Oklahoma where my best friend’s family now lived. She was there, too. I was thankful to have more time together.

For about the next 3 years we would write letters – yes, those handwritten kind long before computers, texting, cell phones or Skype. No, we didn’t use quills. Thankfully, the ball point pen was a old staple of writing by the mid-70’s.

A stamp a day. I don’t remember how much they cost when we began writing, but we both noticed when the postal service hiked the price.

As for phone calls – well, kids, this is back before Vonage and free long distance cell service. Phone rates were at their highest during the work hours on week days. The rates went down on the weekend, but they were the very cheapest after 11pm on the weekend. That’s when we’d call each other. Long distance dating cheap skate style.

She worked at the Waffle House. I was selling stereo gear.

She attended a local community college. I was duking it out with courses at LSU.

She was smart and studious. I was smart.

She made straight A’s. I juggled the schedule trying to make sure I dropped a course I was failing before it drove down my GPA.

Time rolled on and we were moving right long. Fast, considering we were hundreds of miles apart. She in Ft. Worth. Me in Baton Rouge.

Once in a blue moon, I’d talk my boss into letting me have the most sacred day in all of retail off, Saturday!

I’d attend class. Go to work at the stereo shop until we closed. Drive all night to Ft. Worth arriving around 6 am, then spend the weekend with her and her family, shoveling the housing arrangement into shambles. She had 4 sisters and 1 brother. It was not a large house, but I had a room to myself. I still don’t remember where they all slept.

We’d go to church on Sunday morning – that same church where my best friend’s dad was the evangelist once upon a time. It’s the same congregation where we still worship today. And our kids, with their kids. Little did I envision that happening someday.

We’d grab a quick lunch after church, then down the road I’d go…making the 11-hour drive back to Cajun country. The highways are much better now and you can make that drive in about 7 hours. Not so back then.

It was during one of these trips to Ft. Worth when we drove to a park – during the day – and just sat in the car and talked. I broached the subject of getting married. We were 20 years old, but I was sure. By now, she seemed sure, too. A decision she might live to regret. 😉

The plan was hatched. At some point, the date was set – January 2, 1978.

That evangelist – my friend’s dad – he married us. In the same church building where we now worship.

Today, 35 years later – there’s too much to say. Too many memories to recall. Too many tears. Too much laughter to even remember what was so funny. A lifetime, really.

Young love is different than when you’re older, but not so much really. It’s deeper. Comfortable. Not in an unappreciative sense, but in a “don’t know what I’d do without you” sense.

I’m not sure when I felt like we had always been together, but over time it hits you. This lifelong partnership and love affair just seem to have always been.

However much I thought I needed her when we were both just about 6 months shy of being 21 – January 2, 1978 – I didn’t really have a clue. Thirty-five years later I’ve got a much better idea of it. It’s a dependence you can’t describe. And I’ve never tried. Because it’s just too deep to explain to somebody who’s never been blessed to experience it.

There are times it can be so deep that it’s painful. But it’s not.

I often think of the choices I’ve made in life. Many of them have been foolish. Stupid, even. But when I was about 17 I made one of the very wisest choices of my life. I asked a blonde girl from Ft. Worth, Texas to go out with me. And she said, “Yes.”

It changed my life forever!

We’re growing older, but I’m not sure if either of us is riding with less enthusiasm.

Rhonda with grandkids
Rhonda with grandkids

I always did prefer blondes. I love you, Rhonda.

Happy 35th Anniversary To Us!


P.S. We closed out 2012 with a return trip to Baton Rouge – the first time back since we left over 30 years ago. Talk about experiencing a flashback, but in a good way!

Our first home, LSU Married Student Housing
Our first home, LSU Married Student Housing

Living on campus at LSU in the Spring semester of 1978

Up at the top of the stairs to the left was our first “home.” Six hundred square feet of concrete wall and linoleum floors. But it was blissful really. Honestly, I could go back today if I had to and be perfectly happy. Maybe happier. Funny how that works, huh?

Finding my way – both in marriage and academically

After a few miserable years struggling in electrical engineering – a pursuit that was ill-suited for me – I finally went with what I knew I loved. Words. Writing. Talking. Communicating. The Dean of Engineering sat down with me, a requirement at the time if a student wanted to leave one “school” to enter another, and warned me, “You can’t make any money in journalism.” True Dat! Thankfully, I never tried. Sales and management proved too lucrative, but my love of words and communication has persisted throughout my life. The day I was accepted into the School of Journalism, I felt immediately connected and academically whole. Sadly, I had lost a lot of time being miserable in the School of Engineering. A major life lesson learned – soar with your strengths.

LSU School of Journalism (front entrance)
LSU School of Journalism (front entrance)
LSU School of Journalism (front)
LSU School of Journalism (front)
LSU School of Journalism (rear)
LSU School of Journalism (rear)

Now You Know Some-Of-The-Rest-Of-The-Story

Now you know the roots of my passion for Rhonda and for communication. Both have been a lifelong pursuit. Both are very connected. And both define me.

A man’s journey toward wisdom is long and full of twists, turns and round-abouts. If the last 35 years are any indication of this new one, then I know I’m in for a ride. I have no idea how it’ll all turn out. And I’m uncertain if the destination matters as much as folks like to think. Eternally, it does. But here? I don’t think it’s nearly as critical. The experience, the lessons learned, the setbacks, the challenges, the pain, the joy, the laughter and tears – those are likely the things that build wisdom and form us.

Life’s Interesting Hallways

When I attended LSU I spent countless moments walking corridors such as the one pictured below (including that one). When it rained, as it often does in Baton Rouge, students would run from outside sidewalks to find cover in these hallways. Racing from classes, darting in and out of classrooms, connecting with others – the energy found in those moments between classes was often more important than anything else. They’re far more memorable than any single lecture I ever heard. And that seems to be how life works. Experiences matter! People matter. Couple them together and you’ve got magic. Incorporate them into family and “brethren” and you’ve got the best this life has to offer.

One exterior "hallway" in the LSU quadrangle by the library
One exterior “hallway” in the LSU quadrangle by the library
Men Who Influence Boys

Men Who Influence Boys

Men Who Influence Boys 1This time of year I’m approached by numerous charities to make a professional contribution (i.e. donation). Sometimes a personal story is used to inspire. And sometimes the stories are sad tales of a neglected child. A boy who has no father. And so I’m reminded of the role men play in the lives of boys.

Pictured above is Max in the arms of his father. Cale will be the largest male influence on Max. Hands down. From Cale, Max will learn how to treat women by how he sees his father treat his mother. Max will see and learn how marriage works by watching his mom and dad interact with each other. He’ll notice when they touch, how they greet each other, how they show they care about each other.

Max will learn from Cale how important Church and God are in the home. He’ll know if other things crowd out spiritual things. He’ll learn how decisions are made at home. He’ll see how dad handles situations – good or bad. And he’ll learn.

Max will learn how to manage Cale, his dad. He’ll be able – as all kids are – to read the signs of dad’s bad mood, or happy mood. Will he run into his room, close the door and hide? Or will he sit on the sofa doing his homework unfazed? We don’t yet know, but he’ll find a way to cope. All children do.

Men Who Influence Boys 2Cale will likely teach Max how to drive. And he’ll learn how to talk to other drivers. I talk way too much when I drive so I’ll make sure Max doesn’t learn from me. I’ve got a son, Ryan, to prove it. Cale had best keep me and Ryan away from Max when the time comes to learn driving.

“Little pictures have big ears,” is an old-fashioned phrase used by folks of my grandparent’s generation. It means watch what you say and what you do around children because they mock what they see and hear. It’s quite true. Little pictures (children) do have big ears (they hear and see everything).

Men influence boys. Boys need the influence of men. Too numerous are the boys who have insufficient male influences for good. Most boys – even young men – need men to show them how to be men. Moms can teach an awful lot of great things, but it requires a man to teach a boy how to become a man. Problem is, the world is full of grown boys who never learned how to be men. There are too many homes where there is no dad, granddad, uncle or other positive male influence. There simply aren’t enough good men capable of passing it on. Or so it seems.

Dads don’t have the exclusive rights on influencing boys, but they surely own the lion’s share of responsibility and authority. Other men have a lesser share.

Men Who Influence Boys 3Grandfathers have some share. Great-grandfathers have a share. But so do uncles. (Pictured is Max in the arms of one such uncle, Ryan.) And these are just the men of the family who will influence Max – and all boys. There will be teachers, coaches, preachers (that’s Max in the arms of Ronny Wade below), men at church, at school, bosses, men at work – all the men in his life will influence Max’s learning to become his own man.

Max will likely hear his first cuss-word from the mouth of a man, or another male. He’ll likely see his first dirty picture because another guy showed it to him. He’ll see his first fist-fight at school, likely between two boys. Males will show Max the gritty side of life, the not-so-nice part of life. But on the good side, Max will remember sermons taught by men. He’ll learn church songs because of the men who lead them at church. He’ll learn public prayers from men. There are countless good things he’ll learn from the males in his life. Hopefully, the good things he’ll learn will prepare him to better cope with the evil things he’ll learn.

Men Who Influence Boys 4Like all boys – all children – Max is a live recording device. He’s taking it all in, even though he’s not yet able to process more than basic things. That will quickly change. Soon enough he’ll be able to process more information than the world’s grandest computer. His brain will grow and expand as he absorbs all the new information presented by the world. The world of men will largely determine the man he’ll become.

This means the men in Max’s life have to live responsibly. We have to be careful to make the recording in Max’s life the very best possible. It’s up to us to give him the right start, middle and finish of life. Lord willing, none of us will survive to see his finish. He’ll have to go that stretch of road without us. But by then, the work of the men in his life will likely be completed. We’ll have influenced him sufficiently to make him the man he’ll always be.

Begin with the end in view. What kind of man should Max become? Men, it’s up to us. And Max isn’t likely the only boy we’re influencing. Men influence boys. We influence boys to become the men we are. If we’re not the men we should be, then Max is sure to follow. We need to be the men God wants us to be so we can help Max be the man God wants him to be. It’ll be up to Max to learn and follow.

Men Who Influence Boys 5
Some men are more influential than others. M. Lynwood Smith pictured with young men who were once boys.



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