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My Last Trip to Build a Bear

My Leadership Begins at Home tagline once again came to mind a couple of weekends ago as I attended the college graduation of my daughter Sarah. 

It's official ... there's a new Mercer Bear in the world. 

I remember our first trip to Build-a-Bear like it was yesterday ... only it wasn't. It was fifteen years ago that we first set foot in a mall (remember those) to pay an insane amount of money to design a teddy bear. A teddy bear that honestly looked like every other teddy bear. 

Baby Bear 1

Looking back, the first bear cost little in comparison to the college bear, and I'm not referring to tuition. I'm talking about a higher price. Truthfully the latest version has cost me my life. Every precious ounce of life. All my prayers, cares, hopes, dreams, and yes, even my money. So many bedtime stories, front porch chats, soccer practices, and tanks of gas have represented the price tag. And if you ask me, worth every second and every penny. 

Baby Bear 2For leaders the temptation is to focus on the nine to five, those hours that represent work. The idea of Leadership Begins at Home is more about what happens from five to nine ... kids aren't the only ones who need to be doing homework.

As a father, I can tell you there are few things that compare to the joy of watching your kids grow up, knowing you have attempted to be fully present. 

Along the way I learned you can read all the Dr. Seuss bedtime stories in the world, attend every game, even show up for an occasional tea party, and still miss the moments.

Let me warn you ... technology will tempt you. Your schedule will seduce you. Leadership will lure you. And if you're not extra careful graduation will represent regret.

Thankfully, my daddy regrets are few, but I do wish I had respected the time more and been even more locked in. It was hard to appreciate just how fast it would pass. 

In a few weeks most kids will go back to school, but one of mine won't. No, our time for back to school shoes and backpacks has passed. 

I'm glad my wife and I took the time to build a bear. This one very real. Costly, but now priceless. 

Way to go kid. You were worth it!

Leadership Begins at Home,


Feel free to leave Sarah a word of wisdom in the comment section below ...

I want to thank each of you who faithfully read and pass along my content to your friends and co-workers. Over the next few weeks I will be taking an extended blog break to spend extra time doing Homework. I hope you will too!

My next post will be Monday, July 20th. 

Home Words

Dale Carnegie once said, “The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been condemned.”

If you have a tendency to be heavy handed and critical, maybe you should read that quote again.

Carnegie wrote the book on, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and he would be the first to tell you that winning at home is the most important place to win.

Criticism will not win you many friends anywhere you go, especially at home. I know, I have tried it.

If you want to lead at home, start with your words. If you insist on having your way, making your point, or straightening everyone out, don't be shocked if your words soon become, blah, blah, blah. Noise!

What if you knew

your family relationships were totally dependent upon the words you use at home? News flash ... they are.

Critical words, a negative tone, and bad body language will never get you the results you want. In fact, they all three usually do just the opposite.

Work on your home words over the next few weeks and you might be surprised at how things will start to improve.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What affect do "home words" have on a family?

Comment Below ...

A Hundred Minus One Day

One of my favorite quotes comes from Winnie the Pooh. Years ago, one of my girls gave it to me in a note. My girl is not so little anymore, but the quote still resonates.

In Pooh’s own words, “If you live to be a hundred, I hope I live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live a day without you.”

Do you have someone you feel that way about? I hope so.

The truth is, the most important relationships you have are the ones you have at home.

Pooh also once said, “Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would I’d never leave.”

The words of the little bear might appear soft at first glance, but at the end of your days they will determine the quality of your life.

Focus on your family. You will never reach your full leadership potential in public if you are unable to love in private.



What is your favorite thing about family time?




There is Still Nothing Good about Goodbye

Two years ago this week I wrote one of my most popular posts of all time, There is Nothing Good about Goodbye. In case you missed it, here is the link

For the record, nothing has changed. There is still nothing good about goodbye. It has happened again. Only this time it is heartbreak x 2.

On Friday we dropped off the oldest for another year at college. I’m thinking, “She’s a junior. Third times a charm. How hard can it be?” Stuff like that. And truthfully it was easier than it was the previous two years.

Then came Saturday. The day of the week I usually love so much. But this was no ordinary Saturday. This Saturday hurt - BAD. We dropped off Miss Next in Line at another University to begin her freshmen year.

This is no ordinary kid. Like her big sister, she is AMAZING. Intelligent, grounded, vibrant, talented, and ready.

As a parent, I am not sure you are ever ready? I can see now it was foolish to think it would get easier every time. It doesn’t!

So many conversations, games, vacations, ice cream cones, school plays, story times, kisses and hugs are all still here, even though she is not. The memory of each moment reminds me that loneliness is the price we pay for love.

While there is still nothing good about goodbye, there is a silver lining to my dark cloud . . . Fall Break.

This year it will be twice as sweet, because there will be two coming home.



What would be your best piece of advice to someone in college? I will make sure I forward the comments 🙂







Everything I Need to Know I Didn't Learn in Kindergarten

Years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote a book of short essays titled, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. The first essay, bearing the title of the book, is a list of things that Fulghum learned in his first organized school setting. Things like the importance of sharing, playing fair, putting things back where you found them, saying you are sorry, and the need to take a nap every afternoon.

While I respect Fulghum’s position on the need for society to embrace such values, I cannot honestly say that I learned everything I needed to know while in kindergarten.

Perhaps because I didn’t go to kindergarten.

Looking back, I am not sure it was because I was so advanced that I went directly to first grade. It is just as likely that the people in charge wouldn’t let me in. That’s still up for debate depending

on who you ask?

One thing I am sure of . . . Everything I need to know I learned from my Mom.

Mom did all of the teaching and I just went along for the ride. I was home schooled 20 years before home schooling was even invented. Now days, my Dad is the one doing the riding.

My Mom was a bit different than Fulghum’s kindergarten teacher. As I recall, we skipped the lesson on playing fair. Mom taught

me that, life is not always fair, and people don’t always share.

She told me that there was one rule to live by and it was golden. “Treat others the way you want them to treat you,” she would say, regardless of whether they do the right thing or not.

Mom also said, “You can do & be anything you set your mind to. You are a winner. Work hard. Encourage others, honor your father, set an example for your little brother and sister, and tell the truth.”

I never recall her making me take a nap either. We were too busy visiting fabric stores and working in flower beds or vegetable gardens to have time for naps.

Looking back, I really have no regrets about missing out on kindergarten. Mom taught me to read, write, and do math a year before my first grade teacher, Mrs. Elrod ever got a hold of me.

So on this Mother’s Day weekend, I am so grateful to my first teacher. The woman who let me play hooky for a whole year, and yet still somehow taught me that, “There are two kinds of people in the world . . . Leaders & followers. You need to be a leader. The world needs good leaders.”

While I still fall short of mom’s work ethic, character, love, and resolve, it certainly is not because I lacked an example. She was, and still is, everything I could hope to be.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!





What is the best thing your mom ever taught you?

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Intentional Integrity . . . Work the Second Shift

All week we have considered ways to practice integrity.  Today I leave you with one final thought on the subject.  It was passed along to me yesterday from a young co-worker.

The idea is based on a phrase from a guy named J.R. Vassar.  Vassar encourages guys to be “men of the second shift.”

Whether you are a man or woman, if you want to be an authentic leader, you need to “work the second shift.”  In other words, when you leave work and go home, it is time to go to work on building a great family.

There is no better classroom for learning how to be selfless than your marriage.  And your role as a mom or dad is perhaps the greatest leadership role you will ever have.

Too many leaders neglect their families and it shipwrecks their lives, not to mention their leadership.

As you head into this weekend, and begin a new month, why not take some extra time to invest some one on one time with your kids or plan a date with your spouse.

I believe it is impossible to be an effective, authentic leader unless you are willing to “work the second shift.”



What is your favorite family moment from this past month?


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