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How to Slay Dragons

This is my collection of journal notes taken from years past. Enjoyed publishing it on linkedin “If I were 22” series and wanted to keep my content versus have it in a social media space.

I am now 35, and live in my hometown Knoxville, TN. I have been compiling notes since my graduation from Ole Miss in 2001. From time to time I review them and realize how I am not smart, but maybe a curious guy looking for an edge. Many of times I failed and learned, other times my mentors, friends, wife, children, professors, teachers, pastors, and parents have opened my eyes to the truth and I am grateful for those relationships. College didn’t teach me how to think for myself; it equipped me with the skills to figure it out. You can make a difference in this complex world, but you must be willing to stand alone and slay the dragons that come your way. I have found that only comes true when you are true to yourself. I hope the below helps you….as I feel like it has helped me find my current path..

1. Don’t Believe the Hype! There is hype on every street corner, news article, every tweet, and every linkedin post…even this one. Peel back the layers, ask why, search for the truth, connect the dots, be half empty and half full, put yourself in their shoes, what are the plus and minuses, become all sides of the outcome to truly understand; then apply, or store away till later. This world is full of hype..don’t be a believer. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

2. If you never ask you will never know. My dad taught me this as I was coming out of college. It became my life mantra. It is the reason I was able to find a job coming out of I just picked up a phone and called a CEO. I said something like “I’m calling because I want to work for you.” You see a house for rent and love it, ask to buy it. I did. Don’t be afraid, opportunities are everywhere – JUST ASK!

3. Be Bold. You want to be a leader, right? Every college grad wants to find his place; we all dream big, I’m telling you to be big. Hey Mr. Jones, “I want to be a lion everybody wants to pass as cats.” Do you want to change the way something is done, do you want to make the world a better place, looking for a girlfriend, looking for a career? Go get what ever the heck you want! As my sister says – Own It! Be bold.

4. Don’t be a poser. You know the type..the guy who can’t give you a direct answer, the guy who doesn’t want to speak up, the guy who dresses the part, but doesn’t bring it. Be the guy who delivers, don’t pose to be part of the in crowd, get results. Those folks never do anything, they are just part of the landscape..paint it.

5. Buy Low Sell High. The first rule of business, right? My dad was once at a nursing home and an older man said, “Hi young man can I give you some business advice?” Being kind and curious, my dad said sure. The older gentlemen said, “Buy low and sale high.” Go after a deal and scoop it up. Research, research, and research more, put the hours in and go for it.

6. Never stop reading and studying. Find your interests and start. It will become an obsession you will enjoy. Read the Go-Giver, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich, Outliers, Good to Great, Rockefellar Habits, the Bible, Going Pro, and the E-myth Revisited. Take notes, find out how they apply to your situation and use them.

7. When you make a mistake, simply accept the mistake. It is yours, say I’m sorry, fix it, and move on. Don’t beat yourself up, just learn from it and never do it again. Many times your largest growth moments are a direct result of a mistake. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake.

8. “The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook”William James. Take time to think and plan. Get perspective on your life, find your north and don’t venture too far from it. Searching is good, just know your destination and make sure your search can help you achieve your destination point. This is your goal for your life; both personal and business. It is your life’s work. Everything you do is done from this journey and it is constantly evolving; because nothing successful stays stagnant. This is an every day process, read it, practice it, be it.

9. Don’t do what the crowd is doing. Dare to be different. Don’t buy the stock everyone is talking about, don’t flip houses when everyone is flipping houses, don’t be creating the next facebook, when everyone else is.. Market genius and real movement comes from people who are creating not following. Think outside not inside the cycle. What is the next thing an industry needs to flourish, or how can I improve an idea. Tinker outside the crowd with the knowledge of what is happening inside. But put in the time.

10. Historical Recurrence. Study the history of the country, businesses, and just things in general. Study about the greats John D. Rockefellar, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and J.P. Morgan. Start here. Think about how they were able to accomplish things…it happens today, just in different markets and different ways.

11. One of my finance professors used to say: “A Students Teach, B Students work for C Students, and D Students Mow your yard.” I used to think this was a personality thing, but later decided the reason for this is because C students have to work so hard to just make C’s. Be aware of this and work hard, the C student is the master of outworking the smart kids in class; because things have never come easy to them; they grew up struggling. That grit is their edge. In business, grades don’t matter; skills do. Develop those skills by putting the time in. Your twenties are for building skills you were introduced to in college, this is the time that shapes your professional future.

12. Courage invites critics. They say part of the climb to the top is being a loner. Leaders lead and sometimes leaders are lonely. There will be real lonely times, but the lonely times are what makes you a leader and despite those times..they mold you; these times are where your true self rises to the top. Sometimes you have to walk around fire, when you do, realize there is a strong potential to get burned. Stay focused my friend, the destination is in front of you..and it’s not a journey without hurdles. Always be on the look out for a support staff; every leader has one.

13. It’s not all about price. It is all about relationships, integrity, trust, and a job well done. Buy or purchase based off of value alone. Sell with that same concept in mind, what value do you offer the world, why are you different, and explain to me why I should care?

14. Timing is everything. I used to hate that saying…along with the ever popular..I got lucky some famous CEO interviewee says. But honestly, it is true. Study and be patient, wait for your time, think outside the box, laugh, cry, and love what you do, and if you put in the hours it will come. It’s funny how keeping your head down and working from your cubicle will bring the sun out one day.

15. Care. I feel like no one cares any more. Many customer experiences are halfway done. I admire Chick-fil-a. they do a great job of serving the customer. We in America have grown accustom to bad customer service. So when someone provides what should be the definition of customer service to us; we can’t believe it. Be extraordinary; care more than the average Joe. That care keeps clients coming back and you getting that promotion. Be unexpected. Enjoy the feeling of killing it for someone; one of the best feelings is solving a problem and knowing you did a great job.

16. Give back. Everybody is saying it, right? My most proud times in the last few years have to do with “lifting a finger” moving some chairs, assembling people, planning an event, starting Young Professionals of Knoxville (YPK), working on the Dogwood Arts Festival Board, and launching “What Makes Knoxville Great.” I also had a chance to mentor a high school student who I am incredibly proud of, and speak at a University of Tennessee classroom. What we learn from giving is happiness, seeing people enjoy your giving is remarkable. We live to serve. Learn that early, become involved early, but as you give you must learn to accept gifts of service. Something hard for included.

17. Workout and learn about nutrition. When people feel good they perform well. Make it a part of your daily routine and invest in your body it will build confidence, energy, creativity, and build relationships. Your family, co-workers, and friends will thank you as well. We only have one vehicle, keep it in excellent condition so you can go the distance.

18. Money is opportunity and stuff has a way of controlling us. The more stuff you have the more stuff has to be maintained, fixed, etc..which costs dollars. When you are young and you start to make ends meet, the urge to overextend will creep in, the social pressures of keeping up will be there too. It only takes one bad decision. All in moderation, so of course keep the check book in mind, but also mind your future. Debt controls you; later in life you will find that bad financial decisions will corner you. Don’t be cornered! You never know when it is time for you to invest, or maybe even become an entrepreneur. If you can’t live your dream because your mortgage is too high, or you can’t make your car payment, or credit card debt is king…you are a prisoner. Be financially stable, earn your freedom early. Watch this Fight Club Clip on more. “The things you own end up owning you” – Tyler Durden

19. The harder you work, the luckier you will get. Many say that, but it is so true. Looking back in time; the age of 22 became my year. I found opportunity and I worked my buns off to learn skills. That work ethic drove me down a road that offered many opportunities to increase income and eventually build a business with my father, which now has lead to starting another insurance agency. Many of the roads are stumbled upon, I worked hard, found a path thanks to many friends and relationships along the way, then worked harder, found another path and so on. Enjoy the grind of learning your craft..40 hours a week is for the sitcom crew. What is it you can offer the world? Everyone asks that question; the reality is the world only cares in what you can offer. So when you are in your twenties kill your craft. If it’s pumping gas, pump gas better than anyone in the market, study the make up of gasoline, look for more efficient ways to serve clients, heck.. look at pellet ice and how that may increase revenue, speak up. Who knows one day you may move inside to cashier, then manager, then buy the gas station, buy another one, hire a few more people as you continue to grow, then you may walk into the convenience store business with the knowledge of how to build convenience stores in all 50 states…What is your dream? What can you learn? How much of a nerd can you become at your craft? The world seems so large, but the reality is there a few people who control the knowledge of a marketplace. Can you learn the special tricks of the trade, can you see trends in the market, do you have the courage to make the decision to produce results. What is the trigger, can you be the guy who introduces it. Study, work, get there!

20. Just do something. I wish I would have found more of my passions in college. I tried really hard, but I really didn’t find anything until I was forced to enter the workforce and build my life. It was scary, but independence is where life exists. You must start somewhere and you have that opportunity now. Later in life your majors or GPA won’t matter, but where you started and where you have been will. Once you start the planning, what follows is a reaction to the interests and skills you have gained. In the real world majors don’t matter, results do.

So why are we here, what am I to do? Don’t panic, just dream, dare to set high goals, put a plan in place and go to work. When you find that beautiful girl who you want to share your dreams with – go after her. Dream together, share together, be one with your goals; but most of all love. Love her for who she is and accept her love. Always be in the moment when you are with her; I have made that mistake before. When she sees me wondering she centers me; we are one. As you grow, life will throw some serious stuff at you. I have 3 girls, 2 are twins; raising children is the best thing you will ever do. Things at home must be right to achieve success in both personal and the business world. There is no greater accomplishment than your family. After all, why go through this great journey alone. Building a family is your true life’s legacy and one day your kids will look to you for guidance because they have just graduated. You will tell them what I am telling you…graduation is just the starting point the whole world is in front of you. Get to work.


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