Five More Minutes With Spends Time with “Thine Own True Self”

Written by Brad Rex on November 4, 2013

The Surpassing! Life book cover and author Brad Rex photo five more minutes with website

In today’s post, our frequent guest columnist Brad Rex, weighs in on the importance of being true to one’s self. “To Thine Own Self Be True” is an excerpt from his book, “The Surpassing! Life.”

Brad asks:

How well do you know yourself?

Have you figured out what makes you tick?

As a father of twins, I quickly discovered that people are wired differently from the day of conception. Environment may have some influence, but you were born with your unique desires and capabilities.

The better you understand yourself, the more easily you can leverage your strengths and satisfy your inner longings. Thanks, as always, for your sage advice and insights, Brad!

To Thine Own Self Be True

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.–Richard Feynman

One must know oneself, if it does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better.–Blaise Pascal

Delusions of grandeur make me feel a lot better about myself.–Jane Wagner

One of the most important types of knowledge you need to acquire is self-knowledge.

Many people get book knowledge or street smarts, but never get to know their own strengths, passions, blind spots, and weaknesses. This ignorance results in inferior performance and even complete personal failure.

Sadly, when failure occurs, the person often looks back and sees the times when they could have gained self-knowledge, and deeply regrets the missed opportunities.

I’m an assessment junkie. Over my 30 years in the military and corporate world, I’ve taken about every test possible. Myers-Briggs, DISC, Gallup Profile, Gallup StrengthsFinder, 360 degree feedback, corporate assessments, health assessments—you name it, and I have probably taken it.

This is not because of any love for standardized tests. Rather, it reflects my desire to know as much as possible about myself and my leadership. I have discovered whom I work well with, and whom I need to partner with to make up for my weaknesses.

I’ve found out things that I like to do and excel in, and other things that I need to minimize or delegate. The assessments have helped me to become a better person and leader.

Whenever I do an assessment, I have my wife read the results and tell me whether she thinks it is accurate. Having lived with me for over 30 years, I figure she should have the best picture of who I am and how I behave.

Invariably, she will agree with the assessment.

It amazes me how a test can determine my inner psyche from answering a series of multiple choice questions! As much as I may want to challenge the results, it’s hard to refute multiple assessments (and my wife) that all concur on the conclusions.

I think one of the most useful assessments is Gallup StrengthsFinder. This test showed my strengths as Responsibility, Maximizer, Achiever, Learning, and Belief.

The analyst who discussed the results with me said my profile matched a classic workaholic.

“Companies must love you, because your Maximizer means you always want to improve things, your Achiever pushes you to do more and take on new challenges, and your Responsibility means you will get the job done.”

I felt pretty good about her comments, until she concluded, “Of course, people like you die at an early age from a heart attack.”

Fortunately, that part of her assessment has not come true, but she did cause me to evaluate my work habits, and make worthwhile changes.

We often tend to view others through the lens of our own personality, and gravitate toward those who are like us.

Being self-aware can ensure that you don’t fall into this blind spot, and that you have diverse friends and employees. It also prevents you from being overly critical of people who aren’t like you.

For example, people who didn’t have the strength of Responsibility used to drive me crazy. I viewed them as lazy or disorganized.

After doing the assessments, I recognized that many people do not score as highly in this area as I do, and I need to be much more forgiving.

If you are a leader, you should have your team go through an assessment process, and review the composite results. You will likely find that your team lacks strengths in particular areas, and you should consider this with your next hire.

With the easy availability of inexpensive, online assessments, you don’t have any excuse when it comes to knowing yourself. Seek self-knowledge, and you will find a surpassing life.

Action Points

• Take advantage of every opportunity to go through an assessment process and learn more about your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and abilities.

• Check the results with someone who knows you well, like parents, close friends, or your spouse. Ask them to make you aware of when you are displaying strengths, weaknesses, or blind spots.

• Use the results of your assessment to change the way you look at others, so you are more understanding.

• Have your team do individual assessments, and then review the composite to determine your team’s strengths and weaknesses.


Higher individual and team performance, improved interpersonal relationships, and not dying young from a heart attack!


Five More Minutes With Guest Columnist Brad Rex: Shhhh!

Written by Brad Rex on May 20, 2013

Brad Rex photo

In today’s post, our frequent guest columnist Brad Rex, weighs in on the importance of being humble in order to achieve success. Humble Success is an excerpt from his book, “The Surpassing! Life.”


In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.–Mahatma Gandhi

I have discovered that all human evil comes from this; man’s being unable to sit still in a room.–Blaise Pascal

When you don’t know what to do, get still. Get very still until you do know what to do.–Oprah Winfrey

Be still and know that I am God.–Bible, Isaiah 40: 3

Phone calls. E-mails. Text messages. Commercials. Bill-boards. Pop-ups. Multi-tasking. 24/7. Single parents. Sandwich generation. Instant messaging. On demand. In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded by messages, activity and demands.

Contrast this with our forebears from a generation ago, who “lacked” our modern conveniences of cellphones, computers, microwaves, and cable television. Most stores were open 9-5 and everything was closed on Sundays, by law. There were only three TV channels; businesses communicated by letters, memos and faxes; and phones were wired to the wall. People took vacations (often for several weeks) and did not work.

A huge benefit of this lifestyle was the freedom of thought time, without distraction. Watching a sunset, taking a walk after dinner, enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon in the hammock, or completely forgetting about work on vacation was an expectation, rather than an exception.

Interestingly, the United States enjoyed its highest productivity from 1870-1950, with the greatest growth from 1930-1950. Current growth pales in comparison. The statistic of “multi-factor productivity,” which measures the benefit of new ideas, has been essentially flat since the 1970s, compared to two to three percent per year during the 1950s and 1960s. While there are many potential causes, could the lack of quiet, reflective time reduce our capacity for innovation?

Despite the pressures of our society, you can set boundaries that allow you to put thinking time back into your schedule:

• Set aside time each day on your calendar for reflection. Many people do this in the morning prior to getting ready for work or school. Some read the Bible or a morning devotional. Others walk and think. Scientific studies have shown significant benefits from combining physical activity, changing natural scenery, and pondering a problem.

• Prior to dinner, have everyone put his or her mobile device in a basket (preferably soundproof) and leave it there for the duration. For once, you can have an uninterrupted conversation.

• Put your mobile device in another room when you get home from work, and don’t look at it the rest of the night.

• Turn off the radio in the car during your commute.

• Establish a TV-free night on at least one day during the week.

• Set an out-of-office alert and turn off your e-mail on vacation. One of the best vacations we took as a family was an overseas cruise. I told everyone in the family that I would not pay international roaming charges, and all phones had to stay off during the entire trip. We focused on each other and put aside the hectic expectation of immediately responding to others.

• Set one day of your week, such as Saturday or Sunday, as a “Sabbath,” when you rest, relax and don’t do any work. Use the time to reflect and reconnect with friends and family.

As you think back on the times when you were most productive and had your best ideas, you’ll likely find it was when you were not at work. Be sure to create “downtimes” to maximize your creativity and productivity.

Action Points

• Set boundaries for yourself and your family.

• Determine your best time or environment for ideas, and replicate it.

• Recognize that a rhythm of work and rest results in greater productivity, and constant activity results in diminishing returns.


Better ideas, a more relaxed life, a stronger family.

Guest Columnist Brad Rex: Humble Success

Written by Brad Rex on April 22, 2013

Brad Rex photo

In today’s post, our frequent guest columnist Brad Rex, weighs in on the importance of being humble in order to achieve success. Humble Success is an excerpt from his book, “The Surpassing! Life.”

Now the man Moses was a quietly humble man, more so than anyone living on Earth.: Bible, Numbers 12:3

Humble success sounds like an oxymoron. Usually, success results in pride, not humility. We often associate humility with lowliness and failure. The word humility is translated tapeinophrosune in Greek, meaning “to think or judge with lowliness.” Yet, long-term surpassing success only comes from humility.

Jim Collins makes the business case for humility in describing the highest level of leader, the Level 5 leader in his book, Good to Great: Level 5 leaders are ambitious first and foremost for the cause, the organization, the work—not themselves—and they have the fierce resolve to do whatever it takes to make good on that ambition. A Level 5 leader displays a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.

The prideful person often falls prey to one of the following “derailers”:

1. “My hard work got me here.” I struggled with this until the day I worked at a homeless shelter. I sat down to lunch with one of the men and heard his story. As he described growing up fatherless, with a drug addicted mother, in a crime-infested neighborhood, I realized that I would have likely been homeless if I had the same experience. We don’t choose the family we are born into and, as you look back, you will probably see some key times when you got a “break” that determined your future. Hard work is important, but so is intelligence, ambition, appearance, upbringing and family—all things that are outside your control.

2. Personal competitiveness. I’m a very competitive person, which is a blessing and a curse. Competitiveness can motivate you to take risks and excel, but it can also drive you to make poor choices. Before the recession, the Wall Street Journal used to have a section highlighting job promotions. I always read it with interest, looking first for the person’s name to see if I knew them, then the new position and company, and finally their age. I would compare their age to mine to see if I was “on-track.” If the person was younger than me and at a higher level, my competitiveness would kick in, and it would be time to call the recruiters. C.S. Lewis, famous for his treatises on pride, wrote: Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more than the next man. If you are never satisfied, you will do anything to get more, and your success will be short-lived.

3. Flattery and infallibility. When I took over at Epcot, all of a sudden my jokes became much funnier. This is a form of flattery. Many who succeed believe “success breeds success,” and their decisions cannot fail. Successful people often start “smoking their own exhaust” and believe their flatterers, until a misjudgment derails them.

4. “I am irreplaceable.” Successful leaders sometimes delude themselves into believing their organizations will fail if they leave. In their mind, this delusion means they must do anything possible to remain in their role, to “save the company.” They fire potential successors, create organizational turmoil, and engage in bitter proxy fights. Often, they put the company at risk, and the only way to save it is to fire them.

5. Temptation. Successful people can believe that they are less prone to temptation or, if they succumb, their fame or money will protect them. Ancient wisdom is as pertinent today as 2,000 years ago: If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. A good example is former Governor and Attorney General for the State of New York, Elliot Spitzer. He had money, power and fame. He thought he was above temptation (or at least getting caught) and succumbed to the temptation of engaging prostitutes, derailing his success.

Humble success is possible in today’s business world. The finest leader I ever had the pleasure to work for is Judson Green. Judson is an incredible “Renaissance Man” who was Chairman of Disney’s Parks and Resorts division. He transformed the culture of the division, and led the company through five years of double-digit revenue and income growth, achieving $6 billion in revenue. He then went on to become Chief Executive Officer of NAVTEQ, a preeminent mapping software company, taking the company public and then selling it to Nokia. Beyond his substantial business success, Judson is a concert-level jazz pianist and composer.

Judson epitomizes the Level 5 leader who cares about the people who work for him, and builds strong trust and loyalty. At Disney, Judson always made himself available to help any Cast Member who came to him, despite his very demanding schedule. He taught leadership, through a fascinating Leadership Jazz seminar. He was a major cheerleader for the team, and fought hard to get the resources and rewards necessary to build a world-class culture. He was very focused on business success, but when that success occurred, he gave the credit to his team rather than highlighting himself. He did not fall prey to the pride derailers, and succeeded in life and leadership through humility and service. He has a fruitful legacy in leaders who follow his example and impact the lives of thousands.

Is this the type of leader and person you would like to become? Recognizing the pride derailers and taking steps to foster humility using many of the ideas in this book will promote a lifetime of humble success.

Action Points

• Recognize that humility is a key requirement for long-term success.

• Understand your “pride derailers” and take steps to prevent your misperceptions and temptations from destroying you.

• Ask a good friend to help you know when your pride is harmful to you and others, and remedy the situation.

• Look for and follow role models of humble success.


Continued success, exceptional performance, a lasting legacy

Guest Columnist Brad Rex and “Active Listening”

Written by Brad Rex on March 18, 2013

Brad Rex photo

In today’s post, our frequent guest columnist Brad Rex, weighs in on the importance of listening. . .REALLY listening. . .to friends, family, spouses, and coworkers.

Now I don’t know about you, but often as I am “listening” to someone speak, I’m really thinking about far different things. Often it’s the next question I’ll pose to them; sometimes it’s a diverse as what I’m going to make for dinner.

So The New York Times Test, an excerpted chapter from Brad’s first book, “The Surpassing! Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence,” is sure to help all of us deal with how best to listen when we interact with friends, family, and coworkers.

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.–Dr. Joyce Brothers

A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.–Wilson Mizner

If you listened hard enough the first time, you might have heard what I meant to say.–Unknown

Opportunities are often missed because we are broadcasting when we should be listening.–Unknown

I am often asked “What is the most important skill required for a leader?” While there are many potential answers—financial acumen, negotiations, planning, time management—my vote is “active listening.”

Being an active listener is critical in all interpersonal relationships. Husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, politicians and constituents—all benefit from active listening. As Ernest Hemingway said, “Most people never listen,” which is why most people have poor relationships. The active listener is unique, especially in today’s world, and this uniqueness translates into personal and professional excellence, with many strong relationships.

At employee roundtables, I would frequently hear the criticism, “My manager doesn’t listen to me.” When employees would come to see me with an issue, they would often say, “You really listened to me” at the end of our session. What was the difference between the interaction with their manager and the time with me? Active listening.

With active listening, you focus entirely on the other person, without distractions. The cell phone is put away, e-mail notification is turned off, the computer screen is facing another direction and the door is shut. You have a note pad and pen, and are taking notes while the person talks.
You paraphrase back to the speaker what they are saying to you: “So what I hear you telling me is . . .” “You are angry because . . .” “You believe your leader told you this, but did that.” You encourage the person to speak, especially about their feelings: “Tell me more about this.” “How did it make you feel when this happened?”

During the entire time, you are watching their body language to pick up non-verbal cues. Your body language is open and accepting (no crossed arms or peaked hands). You don’t immediately jump into problem solving mode, but rather let the person fully explain the situation and how they feel about it. When the person is done, you paraphrase back the entire story using the notes that you took while they were speaking, and asking them whether you heard them correctly. After all that is complete, then you are ready to take the next step.

If the issue involves a conflict with a peer, your first question should be, “Have you discussed this with the person directly—one on one?” If they say no, then you direct them to do that first, or you will be put into the middle of the situation unnecessarily. Don’t “take the monkey on your back” by agreeing to talk to the other person individually. If they say yes, then tell them to set up a meeting with the three of you together, so you get to hear both sides at once. Oftentimes, the person will go back and resolve the issue, rather than set up a follow-on meeting.

If the issue involves conflict with someone else (their leader, for example) realize that there are always two sides to every story. I frequently made the mistake early in my life and career of only hearing one side and jumping to conclusions. After a few embarrassments, I’ve learned to seek the other side, usually finding truth is somewhere in the middle. Frank Tyger made the very accurate statement: “Listening to both sides of a story will convince you that there is more to a story than both sides.” A good question to ask is: “What would the other person say if I asked him or her about what happened?”

You should determine if the person wants your help in solving the problem, or just wanted you to listen to them. Men in particular are often guilty of trying to solve a problem, when their spouse just wanted them to listen. Sometimes the speaker will tell you “Thank you for listening to me. I feel much better now” and there is no further action required.

If the person is looking for a solution, a good place to start is to ask the person, “What do you think should happen in this situation?” This teaches people to try to solve problems for themselves rather than coming to you on every issue. He or she may already have a good solution, and just need your help or encouragement to make it happen. Sometimes their proposed solution is impractical, and you need to explain why, and help them think of other options. While there are some things you will have to handle, the best solution is always one that the person can do himself. They get the satisfaction of solving a problem, and you don’t get one more thing on your to-do list.

At the end of the meeting, you should restate any agreements and the agreed deadline. Then, document the agreement with a brief e-mail that you complete while you are together, if possible. This ensures accountability for both of you.

The difference between passive and active listening is dramatic, and is as frustrating as a poor cell phone connection. Passive listeners are distracted, thinking about other things or planning their response before they have even heard the problem. Passive listeners don’t repeat back what they hear and often misunderstand the speaker. Passive listeners don’t take notes, so they appear uninterested and don’t have a record of the meeting. They jump in to solve a problem they don’t understand and create confusion and misunderstandings.

Active listeners focus on the problem and the person, picking up significant non-verbal cues. They listen to understand and confirm that their understanding is correct. They carefully document the conversation and refer back to their notes, enhancing their credibility with the speaker. They hold back on solving the problem, acting as a sounding board so the speaker can learn to solve their own problems. Their ultimate solutions are well grounded, thoughtful and tested, and of immense help to the speaker. Active listeners are considered respectful and wise, and people want to meet and know them. Their relationships are bountiful and rich, an excellent measure of a surpassing life.

Listen actively this week, and experience a new level of effective communication.

Action Points

• Be an active listener.

• Remove distractions so you can focus on the person.

• Take notes.

• Paraphrase back.

• Show open body language.

• Hear both sides.

• Don’t solve the problem unless asked.

• Document the meeting.


Great understanding, more effectiveness, rich relationships!

Guest Columnist Brad Rex: 1,000 E-mails

Written by Brad Rex on October 18, 2012

In today’s post, our frequent guest columnist Brad Rex, weighs in on the importance of communication; specifically, answering e-mails in a timely fashion.

Now I don’t know about you, but it seems like e-mails stack up incessantly in my five (!) e-mail inboxes, not to mention Direct Messages sent via Twitter and Facebook that always seem to demand a quick response.

So 1,000 E-mails, an excerpted chapter from Brad’s recently released book, “The Surpassing! Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence,” is sure to help all of us deal with today’s explosion in communication channels and the many ways we interact with friends, family, and coworkers.

The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.–Lee Iacocca

 But you, Timothy, man of God: . . . Run hard and fast in the faith.–Bible, 1 Timothy 6:11

It bugs me when I call or e-mail someone and don’t get a response. My mind considers the possibilities: Is their voicemail or e-mail not working? Is the person on vacation? Have I offended them and they are refusing to reply because of the offense?

Then, a few days later, I’m forced into new decisions: Do I contact them again? If I called last time, should I use e-mail this time? Should I check with someone else to find out if they are on vacation?

All of this would be unnecessary if people responded within 24 hours to their messages. I have set this as a personal goal, and find that it benefits me and the people who are contacting me, in numerous ways:

• It strengthens my personal and business reputation. People know if they send me an e-mail, I will respond, and respond quickly.

• It requires me to manage my schedule effectively, building in adequate time to reply expediently.

• It forces me to delegate in order to effectively manage the number of messages I receive.

• It prevents issues from escalating, as they are resolved swiftly.

• It reduces stress, as I don’t have e-mails and calls building up over time.

• It is efficient, as I handle the issue immediately rather than putting it off and having to familiarize myself with it again later.

• It keeps me on top of rapidly changing situations, rather than being several days behind others.

When I discuss 24-hour response, the usual retort is “Sounds like a great idea, but there is no way I could ever do that with all the e-mails I get. I must get 1,000 e-mails a day!”

I reply, “If you are getting 1,000 e-mails a day, you are either a significant micro-manager or on every spammers’ address list.”

If the quantity of e-mails you receive is overwhelming, you need to reduce it by critically reviewing every e-mail that you receive and decide:

• Do I absolutely have to handle this, or can I delegate it to someone else?

• Do I need this information on an on-going basis?

• Am I being “over-informed” by a person on my team, with many e-mails telling me everything they are doing in unnecessary detail?

• Is this junk e-mail that I can stop by unsubscribing to it?

With a goal of responding in 24 hours, you can easily monitor your success, and ruthlessly reduce your e-mail to meet the target. You may find your e-mails significantly reduced, as people don’t have to send you multiple follow-up messages, since you are now responding quickly!

Action Points

• Commit to reply to your e-mails and messages within 24 hours.

• Put in place a process to ensure you meet your commitment.

• Reduce the number of e-mails that you get by critically reviewing each one.


Less stress, a strong professional reputation, greater productivity.



Five More Minutes With Guest Columnist Brad Rex: Ask Questions

Written by Brad Rex on September 20, 2012

Here is the sixth excerpt from our frequent guest columnist, Brad Rex’s new book, “The Surpassing Life!.”

This chapter is entitled Ask Questions, and made me question my own behavior when someone asks me about something I do not know about.

Thanks for such stimulating food for thought, Brad!

Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.


The real object of education is to have a man in the condition of continually asking questions.

Bishop Creighton

Man has made some machines that can answer questions provided the facts are profusely stored in them, but we will never be able to make a machine that will ask questions. The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.

Thomas Watson

I reported to my submarine after completing four years at the Naval Academy and another 1½ years of nuclear power training and submarine school. I figured I had all the answers, or at least that I was expected to have all the answers.

All submarine officers have to complete qualifications after they get to their ship. These qualifications are specific to the ship, and require that you learn all the different compartments and operations. You study the material and are then quizzed by Chief Petty Officers (CPO) or Officers, like the Engineer or Navigator, who sign off on your qualifications after you demonstrate adequate knowledge. After you complete all of your qualifications (typically a 1-2 year process), you are allowed to wear the coveted gold dolphins insignia on your uniform.

Early in my time onboard, I was working on qualifying in the torpedo room. The CPO in charge of the torpedo room was very proud of his space and his people. He wanted everyone who qualified in his torpedo room to be well versed. I was struggling with his questions and resorted to making up answers, since I was afraid to display my ignorance. To my relief, he seemed to accept my answers and finally signed my book.

Three years later, as I was leaving the ship, I went to the torpedo room CPO to say goodbye. He said, “Lieutenant Rex, I didn’t respect you very much when you first came to the ship. You pretended to know more than you did. But, during your time onboard, you learned to admit what you didn’t know and ask questions. I respect you for that, and I’m sorry to see you go.”

This was a great learning for me, although I often forgot the lesson and reverted back to my old behavior when I was put in new situations. Over time, I determined a few reasons why other people (and I) often don’t ask questions:

People are afraid to admit that they don’t know something that they are supposed to know.

This was my issue on the submarine. I would like to say that, from that point on, I never tried to fake it and I always asked questions, but I can’t. I’ve had to learn over the last twenty years that it is okay to admit what you don’t know, and people respect you more, not less, when you ask questions. As a leader, the people who follow you particularly like it when you ask them how they do their job. It reverses the power dynamic, with the employee demonstrating his expertise and value.

They don’t have enough knowledge to ask a question.

There are many questions that can be asked in any situation. A great booklet that I have carried and used for years is Asking to Win! by Bobb Biehl. Biehl provides questions for a variety of situations, including getting to know someone better, interviewing, brainstorming, decision-making, organizing, planning and parenting. He presents the most powerful question as Why?. . . Why? . . . Why? . . . Why? and the ideal question as “What is the ideal?” I have particularly used his questions in the section on career change to confirm or reject different job opportunities.

Preparation is also crucial in asking good questions. If you are meeting with someone or interviewing at a company, always do your homework and be prepared to ask specific questions. When I have interviewed with executives at a company, I have prepared one-page sheets for each person that I am meeting. The sheets have specific questions related to their area (e.g., finance, operations, marketing) based on the research I have done on the company. The sheet also has several more general questions that I ask everyone (e.g., “What is the one thing that you would do to make the company better?”). This is an efficient way to capture valuable information and keep everything straight after multiple interviews.

They are hoping someone else will ask the question.

Many people won’t ask questions due to shyness, laziness, insecurity or pride, and are more than happy to “delegate” that responsibility to others. Some are inhibited by childhood memories of parents telling them to “Stop asking so many questions!” Yet, if you can overcome these fears and inhibitions, you can stand out and be remembered as a person who asks great questions and gains useful knowledge.

Surpassing people practice the art of questioning, combining preparation, boldness and humility in a powerful mix to satisfy their curiosity and attain wisdom.

Action Points

• Don’t fake it. Admit what you don’t know and ask questions.

• Learn general questions that apply to many situations.

• Prepare yourself to ask specific questions.

• Recognize and overcome any anxiety you have about asking questions.


Constant learning, greater knowledge, a reputation of curiosity and boldness.

Uniform Races

Written by Brad Rex on August 30, 2012

Here is the fifth offering from one of our frequent guest columnists, Brad Rex. Not only is Brad my beloved brother, but he’s head of The Brad Rex Group, a consultant, noted public speaker, husband for 30 years, and father of three.

I’m proud to report that Brad’s new book, “The Surpassing! Life,” was published in May, so is now available for purchase here.

And I’m also honored to be among the first to excerpt parts of “Surpassing!” in the coming months.

Here’s his chapter entitled, Uniform Races, which gives valuable insights into something many of us struggle with on a daily basis: time management.

Uniform Races speaks to the Five More Minutes With zeitgeist because we should all value every moment, since life is fragile and precious and there are no guarantees. Carpe diem!

There is never enough time, unless you’re serving it.

Malcolm Forbes

He who every morning plans the transactions of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.

Victor Hugo

All my possessions for a moment of time.

Elizabeth I

How does a project get to be a year behind schedule?

One day at a time.

Fred Brooks


Besides active listening, the second most important skill for successful leaders is time management. A common refrain heard when talking about great leaders is, “How do they manage to do it all?”

The secret is effectively using every minute of every day. There are 525,600 minutes in a year. How well do you use each one?

I learned the value of a minute at the Naval Academy during my first year (Plebe) summer. Plebe summer is an intense training period when you are indoctrinated into the military way of life.

During the two months, you are purposefully required to do much more than can be physically done in the time allotted.

One of the favorite exercises during the summer is “uniform races.” All the plebes are lined up in the hall. An upperclassman yells out a uniform and a time (“Dress Whites. Two minutes. Go.”).

You are required to race back to your room, change into that uniform, and return within the specified time. Sometimes, you are required to take a shower or shave in between changing. Other times, you will be given instructions to put on different combinations of uniforms.

For the first few uniform races, very few plebes make it back in time. But, as the summer progresses, you learn how to optimize and shave seconds off each step in the process.

You start off thinking that you could never change in two minutes, and end up finding out that you can do it with time to spare. You find out just how much you can do in two minutes.

I learned the value of uniform races when the academic year started, and I had to change clothes quickly during the day. I also saw the value when I entered the business world, and often had to race from a late business meeting or flight and change clothes for dinner.

The best use of your time is to take a great time-management course. Lee Cockerell, former EVP of Operations for Walt Disney World, teaches a comprehensive and highly effective time management program. Lee is so passionate about time management that he taught the course to thousands of Cast Members when he was at Disney, and continues to teach the course to business leaders today. I encourage every leader to take this course.

A few of my suggestions regarding time management are:

• Write down your tasks. The strongest mind is no match for the weakest pen and paper. My to-do lists when I led Epcot often had over 150 items. There is no way I could ever remember that many things. By writing them down, I could ensure that nothing slipped through the cracks.

• Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Some people use an “A, B, C” system, while others use different symbols or time periods. No matter what you use, you have to make decisions about what needs to be done first.

• Review your items first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. This gives you a plan for the day, and then feedback about how well you executed on your plan.

• Delegate and “automate.” I’ll talk about delegation in a later section. For “automate,” I am referring to creating habits for the things you do daily. For example, you shouldn’t have to think about working out or where you fit it in your calendar. You should have a daily habit of exercising at a particular time and just do it then. Your exercise time might be 6:30-7:30 a.m. every day. It is in your calendar that way, and you know that is when you work out. Morning and evening routines are not boring—they are a great way to simplify your life.

• Schedule time for the “important” as well as the “urgent.” Oftentimes, urgent items crowd out important items, when the important items are more critical to your long-term career. You should classify tasks into Urgent-Important; Not Urgent-Important; Urgent-Not Important; and, Not Urgent-Not Important. Clearly, the Urgent-Important tasks should have a high priority, while Not Urgent-Not Important tasks can most likely be delegated or not even done.

• Schedule thought and “blank” time. Leaders need thought time to develop strategies and process plans. You also need blank time to take care of the urgent items. One of my leaders, Eddie Carpenter, who was the Chief Financial Officer for Disney Parks and Resorts, would typically schedule the day before and the day after his vacations without any meetings. This allowed him to get everything accomplished before he left, and have a day to catch up when he returned, greatly reducing his stress and increasing his productivity.

• Be ruthless about getting rid of non-productive time. Always have something to read or do with you. With smartphones, you can answer e-mails, read newspapers, and make calls using your handheld device. Time is money, and work time is time that you could be spending with your family. Imagine that you are a lawyer that bills $500 per hour—over $8 per minute. Spending twenty minutes in an examining room waiting for a doctor would cost you $160. Don’t read old magazines—spend your time on your smartphone doing productive work.

• One of the best pieces of advice from Lee’s course is to “do something today that will benefit you in five years.” Many people get so caught up in the moment that they don’t do anything that will help them in the future. This might include taking care of your health, rebalancing your investment portfolio, or contacting someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.

John Lithgow said, “Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.” His statement is both humorous and accurate. You need to take control of your time, or risk getting squashed by life.

Action Items

• Recognize the value of time. A minute is a long time if you use it well.

• Take a time-management course and use either a paper planner or smartphone software to plan your day.

• Prioritize and review.

• Delegate and automate.

• Use waiting time effectively.

• Do something today that will not benefit you for five to 10 years.


A full, rich, rewarding life with accomplishments beyond measure.


Playing Favorites

Written by Brad Rex on June 25, 2012

Here is the fourth offering from one of our frequent guest columnists, Brad Rex. Not only is Brad my beloved brother, but he’s head of The Brad Rex Group, a consultant, noted public speaker, husband for 30 years, and father of three.

I’m proud to report that Brad’s new book, “The Surpassing! Life,” was published in May, so is now available for purchase here.

And I’m also honored to be among the first to excerpt parts of “Surpassing!” in the coming months.

Here’s his chapter entitled, Playing Favorites, which showcases the idea that every person is important and makes a difference. It speaks to the Five More Minutes With zeitgeist because we should all value and praise the worth of  those around us (especially friends and family members) each and every day. 

Thanks for your wisdom, as always, Brad. And congrats on a job well done with your new book! 

Rejoice in your special talents, and recognize others.

C. S. Lewis

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.

Bible, 1 Corinthians 12: 19

Diversity and inclusion is a significant theme at Disney parks and resorts. The rallying cry used by Disney is R.A.V.E.—Respect, Appreciate and Value Everyone.

I really like this message, as it captures the idea that every person is important and makes a difference.

As you live out the idea of respecting, appreciating, and valuing everyone that you meet, you will develop strong relationships of mutual admiration.

It pains me to watch a person smile and greet a fellow traveler at the airport, but ignore the custodian, as if he was not there. We all have a tendency to judge a person’s value and only interact with people who have an equal or greater “value” than us. And some actually demean people who are perceived as having less value.

I wasn’t supposed to play favorites as the leader of Epcot. But, I have to admit that I did have a favorite group of Cast Members—the Custodial team. This team was very proud of the work that they did every day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, keeping Epcot spotless.

I tried to attend many Custodial pre-shift meetings. When I did, you could hear a buzz around the room that the VP was there. I would often start the meetings by asking the group, “Who is more important—me or you?”

I would go on to say that, if I were gone for a month, very few Epcot Guests would notice. It might impact our longer-range plans and there may be a few small hits, but, overall, the park would keep running well.

However, if the Custodial team was gone for a day, imagine what would happen—trash bins overflowing, restrooms filthy, kitchens unsanitary. So, who is more important?

In 2004, Richard Branson, the billionaire leader of the Virgin companies, had a reality television show entitled The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best. Through a series of business and physical challenges, Branson eliminated contestants, with the final contestant winning the opportunity to lead one of Branson’s companies, Virgin Worldwide.

One episode featured a business presentation that the team had to create and then present to Branson. The team worked on the presentation and was told to go across town by limousine.

One member of the team was the clear leader, and was a favored candidate to win the ultimate prize. When the group arrived at the building exit, the limousine was not there. Finally it arrived. Words were exchanged with the limousine driver, everyone got it, and they arrived at their destination.

Richard Branson was not in the presentation room, and the group was told to present to some of his executives. The favored candidate did a brilliant job presenting and answering questions.

At the end, the door to the conference room opened and Richard Branson walked in, dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform.

He stared directly at the favored candidate and told him he would never run one of his companies. The picture then went to video of the interaction with the limousine driver, and showed the candidate berating the chauffeur, who was Richard Branson in disguise, for being late and stupid.

“If this is how you treat someone who is serving you, you will not serve as a leader in the Virgin organization,” said Branson. Branson saw that this young leader did not respect, appreciate, and value everyone, and his relationships would suffer because of it.

I used to put on a Custodial costume and walk around Epcot, panning and brooming. It was as if I was invisible. I could talk to Guests, watch how managers interacted with Cast Members, and gauge the service of the operation much better than when people knew the VP was in the park.

And, it sent a clear message to the Cast at Epcot that I believed every job and every person was important.

Are you known as a person who respects, appreciates, and values everyone? If so, you will find people will want to know you and build relationships with you.

On the other hand, if you tend to demean and belittle others, you’ll lead a lonely and often bitter life.

The Bible tells us that we should “in humility, consider others better than yourself.” If you approach people this way and express genuine interest in them, you can create strong relationships and a wonderful, surpassing life.

Action Points

• Respect, appreciate, and value everyone, especially those who serve you.

• Get “in costume” and do other people’s roles, to understand their life.

• Consider others better than yourself.


Deeper relationships, greater respect and appreciation of others, a diverse and inclusive work and personal life


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Windows and Mirrors

Written by Brad Rex on May 17, 2012

Here is the third offering from our newest guest columnist, Brad Rex. Not only is Brad my beloved brother, but he’s head of The Brad Rex Group, a consultant, noted public speaker, husband for 30 years, and father of three.

I’m proud to report that Brad’s new book, “The Surpassing! Life,” was published on May 15, so is now available for purchase here.

And I’m also honored to be among the first to excerpt parts of “Surpassing!” in the coming months.

Here’s his chapter entitled, Windows and Mirrors, which shows us how to accept praise, and give it. It speaks to the Five More Minutes With zeitgeist because we should all thank those around us (especially family members) each and every day. 

Thanks for your wisdom, as always, Brad. And congrats on a job well done with your new book! 

Here is his essay entitled, Windows and Mirrors. 

But those who exalt themselves will be humbled,

and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Matthew 23:12

Conventional wisdom would tell you to “blow your own horn” to get recognized and advance. However, this negates the importance of surrounding yourself with great people who will be the true drivers of your career. Great people want to work for someone who gives them the credit, rather than keeping the honors and minimizing their contribution.

Jim Collins, in his analysis of the highest levels of leadership in “Good to Great” writes: The leaders who sit in the most powerful seats in our organization practice the window and the mirror.

They point out the window to people and factors other than themselves to give credit for success. When confronted with failures, they look in the mirror and say, “I am responsible.”

Leaders who are “windows” are secure in their leadership, and don’t need to draw attention to their performance. They happily share credit and highlight their people, as they know this credit sharing has two major benefits—it motivates the team to achieve even higher performance and it builds loyalty for the leader. These benefits far outweigh a brief time in the spotlight for the boastful alternative.

These leaders are also “mirrors” who accept responsibility for failures. They earn their pay and title by shielding their teams from corporate wrath. This instills further loyalty as people realize “success has many parents, but failure is an orphan.”

The focus of the team becomes course correction rather than blame shifting. The team also learns to take risks, knowing the leader “has their back” if the risk doesn’t succeed. Most companies say they want to be innovative and take risks, but, to do so successfully, they need leaders who accept rather than punish failure.

The best leaders extensively recognize the contributions of their people at all levels. This reinforces positive behaviors and creates strong loyalty.

Shortly after Meg Crofton was named as the President of Walt Disney World, she walked Epcot with me.

One of the frontline Cast Members approached us and I introduced her to Meg. She said, “I was at the movies the other day and thought about Brad.” I asked her if it was because of my resemblance to Brad Pitt, and she politely answered, “Not exactly.” She went on to say that a few months before, I had witnessed her giving great Guest service, thanked her and gave her a note from me with two movie ticket vouchers, in recognition of her work. “No one ever did anything like that for me before,” she said, “and I will always remember it.”

For me, it had not seemed like a big deal but, for her, taking the time to recognize her and giving her a small tangible token of appreciation was a “magical memory.” Oftentimes, just a simple “thank you,” “great job,” or “I’m proud of you” goes a long way.

Action Points

• Think about how often you “blow your own horn” and how often you give others the credit.

• When things go right, do you take the credit or give credit to the team?

• Conversely, when things go wrong, whom do you blame?

• How often do you take the time to recognize the people who work for you, verbally and with small gifts?


Stronger teams, greater loyalty, a willingness to take risks, higher performance.

Brad Rex Tells Us How to Be Thankful!

Written by Brad Rex on April 26, 2012

Here is the second offering from our new guest columnist, Brad Rex. Not only is Brad my beloved brother, but he’s head of The Brad Rex Group, a consultant, noted public speaker, husband for 30 years, and father of three.

I’m proud to report that Brad’s new book, “The Surpassing! Life,” will be published next month. And I’m honored to be among the first to excerpt parts of “Surpassing!” in the coming months.

Here’s his chapter entitled, “Thanks,” which shows us how to be thankful for everything we have in life, very much part of the zeitgeist of Five More Minutes With. At the end, he even includes Action Points and the Payoff if you follow his recommendations.

Thanks for your wisdom, as always, Brad.

Here is his essay entitled, Thanks!

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.–Cicero


 I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.–G.K. Chesterton


Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: his love endures forever.–Bible, 1 Chronicles 16: 34


Have you ever been with people who have very little, but seem very happy and satisfied? The lack of material things may make them appear to be unsuccessful by our culture’s definition, yet most millionaires would envy their happiness. They have achieved surpassing success through gratitude.

Our culture teaches us to regret the things we don’t have, rather than be thankful for the things we do. This is a marketing strategy to drive demand. “You’ll be sorry if you don’t buy these shoes.” “You’ll regret not getting the girl if you don’t drink this beer.” “You will miss out on life if you don’t have this car.” The constant barrage of remorseful messages creates fear and anxiety that drains the energy from life, since there will always be things we don’t have.

A thankful person reverses this thinking. She looks at what she has, rather than what she lacks. She actually realizes that she has many things to be thankful for, and the more things she lists, the more than come to mind.

The unthankful person often makes comparisons. “He has more money or a bigger house.” “She is prettier or thinner than I am.” The unthankful person forgets that life is a package deal. The person who is rich may have destroyed his family. The woman who is thin may have an eating disorder or multiple food allergies. The person who is famous has no privacy.

After reading that Bill Gates’ children required bodyguards to go to school, my children told me, “We’re glad you’re a nobody, Dad.” I’m not sure exactly how to take that, but I accepted it as a compliment. No one “has it all”—there are always negatives with positives. As you look at someone and say, “I wish I had their life,” remember what you would have to give up, and the negatives that come with the positives. You will decide that your life is just fine, and be thankful for what you have.

With the adverse pressures of our culture, fostering an “attitude of gratitude” requires effort. Several practices can help. The first is a simple list of the things that you are thankful for. You can start with various headings, such as health, family, food, shelter, and then build on each topic (e.g., for health—life, the ability to walk, sight, taste, etc.; family—spouse, children, parents, siblings).

You can build up a lengthy list quickly, and realize just how fortunate you are. Pull out the list every day, and give thanks for a few things. If you get disappointed in an area, like losing a promotion or ending a relationship, look at the list and realize how good things are going in other areas of your life.

Robert A. Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, and Michael E. McCullough at the University of Miami conducted research showing that listing five things for which you are grateful with a sentence for each once a week had a profound effect within two months. Versus a control group, the “gratitude group” were more optimistic and happy, spent more time exercising and had fewer physical problems. They also fell asleep faster, had a longer sleep and reported waking up feeling more refreshed. Instead of a sleeping pill, try a gratitude journal!

You can also create a personal marker chronology. This shows how the events that have happened to you or the decisions that you made have positively benefited your life. You should start with your birthplace and upbringing. You might have had an idyllic early life that gave you many benefits and a positive outlook.

Or, your early years could have been a struggle that taught you resilience and street smarts. Your choice of college, military or a job after high school sent your life in a particular direction. The places you lived, down to the specific neighborhoods, determined your friends and activities. If you had children, you can see the timing, and how that fit into the rest of your life.

A personal marker chronology provides perspective. When you broke up with your high school or college sweetheart that you thought was “the one,” you were probably devastated. Your chronology, though, will show that the break-up resulted in meeting your future spouse and a much better life. Similarly, the lost job at one point resulted in a much better job or location later. When the next “bad” thing happens to you, you can look at your chronology and be thankful, realizing that what initially looks bad often leads to a future positive outcome.

Success without gratitude is a hollow victory, and often short-lived. With the next challenge or disappointment, the successful ingrate quickly folds, finding that the previous success provides little assurance or comfort. On the other hand, the thankful person enjoys their current success, while recognizing that the situation can change, and has the resilience to give thanks in all circumstances.

Action Points

• Be thankful for what you have, not regretful for what you lack.

• Don’t make comparisons or, if you do, remember the other person’s life is a “package deal”—you have to take their bad with the good.

• Develop an attitude of gratitude.

• Make a list of the things you are thankful for and review it often.

• Gain perspective from a personal marker chronology.


A much happier life, positive outlook and resilience in challenging times.

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